By Harvey Wasserman
A bought, gerrymandered Ohio Legislature has just handed a much-hated $150 million/year public bailout to two dinosaur nuke reactors primed to explode.
It also bails out two filthy 50-year-old coal burners and guts programs for increased efficiency.
But a possible repeal referendum could reverse all that – and have a serious impact on the Trumpsters who pushed it – in the 2020 election.
Here are some basics:
- The 42-year-old Davis-Besse reactor near Toledo and 33-year-old Perry, east of Cleveland, are both dangerously crumbling.
- Neither can compete with wind, solar, gas, or increased efficiency.
- Both would shut immediately in a free market environment.
- Like all nuke reactors, both emit substantial quantities of heat, radiation, and carbon.
- Both threaten the entire North Coast and Great Lakes region with a radioactive apocalypse.
- Neither can get private disaster insurance.
- Their owner, FirstEnergy (FE) of Akron, is bankrupt.
- The utility stands to gain some $150,000,000/year at the expense of ALL Ohio electric consumers, not just those in its territory.
- FE’s top seven execs are paid roughly $25,000,000/year; CEO Chuck Jones gets $9,500,000.
- In 2003, FE blacked out 50,000,000 people.
- Davis-Besse’s infamous 2002 “hole-in-the-head” came when boric acid ate nearly all the way through the reactor pressure vessel.
- In 1986 (as the Challenger blew up), Perry became the first US reactor to be damaged by an earthquake; a 4.0 shock recently hit less than 25 miles away.
- A state-mandated 1986-1987 study showed northern Ohio cannot be evacuated in case of a meltdown … and certainly not amidst an earthquake.
- Ohio’s North Coast is flat, blown by constant lake-based winds, and crisscrossed with transmission lines and good turbine sites near the cities to be served.
- Local farmers are desperate for the income the turbines would provide.
- $4.2 billion in private capital is poised to pour into the region for wind farms that would create thousands of jobs and lower electric rates.
- Turbines in Lake Erie, plus land-based wind and solar farms, enhanced by batteries and efficiency, can provide all of Ohio’s electricity far more cheaply than nukes and/or fossil fuels while creating far more jobs.
- But in 2014, with zero basis in health or environmental protection, FE’s bought legislators put into the Ohio Code a setback clause that has killed wind development in the state.
- Ohio now has far less installed wind capacity than neighboring Indiana, Michigan, New York, or Pennsylvania, which have comparable wind resources but no such setback clause.
- Ohio is a national leader in manufacturing wind turbine components, virtually none of which are deployed in Ohio.
- Perry & DB have been repeatedly bailed out dating back at least to 1999, when FE scammed a $9 billion “stranded cost” give-away.
- It was called a “stranded cost” bailout because FE complained even then that reactors could not compete in an open market.
- This latest bailout was directly pushed by Trump, at least one of whose co-conspirators personally lobbied key legislators for it.
- Ohio is roughly 50/50 Republican/Democrat, but the GOP has heavily gerrymandered majorities in both houses of the Legislature.
- In 2018, FE targeted a dozen GOP legislative primaries, buying at least 11 bailout votes.
- This latest bailout bill could not have passed without votes from key corporate Democrats.
- But Trump, FE, and the nuke industry will spend unlimited millions to defeat it.
- It’s been widely known since at least 2004 that Ohio’s registration rolls and voting procedures are heavily rigged to favor the GOP and its corporate owners.
- The longer Perry and Davis-Besse operate, the higher the odds they’ll obliterate Toledo, Cleveland, and the entire Great Lakes region.
- Neither has private disaster insurance.
- FE can’t handle its radioactive wastes, evacuate the region when disaster strikes, or credibly maintain the reactors in their current (deteriorating) state.
Should the referendum get on the ballot, it could help take down Trump and save the region from an apocalyptic catastrophe, as well as economic ruin. Should it fail, the odds on a major nuclear catastrophe along the shores of Lake Erie are too high to contemplate.
The stakes could not be higher.