GATES plot for ACCEPTANCE of MORE NUCLEAR PLANTS – Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick Blames Constituents for Giant Electric Bills: “Read the Fine Print” | Vanity Fair


Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick Blames Constituents for Giant Electric Bills: 

“Read the Fine Print” 






to Reduce Climate Change

Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick Blames Constituents for Giant Electric Bills: “Read the Fine Print”

February 25, 2021According to Patrick, people who were hit with $17,000 electric bills last week have only themselves to blame. 

Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston speaks in the Texas Senate chamber where he will take over as Lt. Governor of Texas on...
By Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images.

As millions of Texans went days without heat or electricity last week, the few that somehow didn’t lose power no doubt counted themselves extremely lucky. That is, until they looked at their energy bills and saw eye-popping, five-figure numbers nearly a hundred times bigger than what they typically owed. “My savings is gone,” Scott Willoughby,a 63-year-old Army veteran who found himself on the receiving end of a $16,752 bill, told The New York Times. “It’s been 43 degrees in the house since Monday, and I still have a $5,000 bill,” Karen Cosby told the Dallas News. “How in the world can anyone pay that,” Ty Williams wondered aloud to WFAA ABC, after noting that his electric bill was more than $17,000 for the month.

Texans hit with astronomical bills—even if they did everything they could to conserve energy—have plans whose electricity prices are not fixed and instead tied to variable wholesale prices. Obviously, that means that when demand increases, their bills rise, with the goal, according to architects of the system, being to “balance the market by encouraging consumers to reduce their usage and power suppliers to create more electricity.” But when the Texas power crisis hit, the state’s Public Utilities Commission raised the cap on electricity prices to $9 per kilowatt-hour, leaving many people with completely insane bills to pay. And all of this happened because Texas, which is the only state in the contiguous U.S. not on the national power grid, and which has been under Republican control for two decades, decided to ignore a warning from federal regulators issued 10 years ago that its power plants needed to be upgraded or they would not be able to churn out electricity in extremely cold conditions—the kind the state saw last week. In other words, people like Greg Abbott and Rick Perry and Ted Cruz are the ones to blame for constituents’ gigantic bills, though if you ask Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Texans who’ve had to deplete their life’s savings should spend less time writing angry letters to elected officials and more time taking a long, hard look in the mirror.


In an interview with Fox News, Patrick told host Harris Faulkner, “I saw the story about the high bills. Let me explain that. We have in Texas, you can choose your energy plan and most people have a fixed rate. If they had a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour, their rates aren’t going up…. But the people who are getting those big bills are people who gambled on a very, very low rate…going forward, people need to read the fine print in those kinds of bills.”Sure, Patrick added that the “folks” who received $2,000 and $3,000 and $17,000 bills should “not panic” and that the government is “going to figure that out,” but he also said that he’s going to get to the bottom of why Texas‘s power grid failed in such a spectacular fashion when, again, the state was warned a decade ago that it needed to winterize its power plants. So it doesn’t really seem like Patrick is great at figuring things out.

Patrick, who has been described by the Dallas Morning News as “the icon for exactly what’s wrong with the Republican Party in Texas,” was most recently in the news for basically trying to bribe people to report 2020 election voter fraud that never happened. Before that, he famously suggested, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, that seniors should volunteer to die to save the economy, claiming that “lots of grandparents” were willing to sacrifice themselves for the cause.

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Ceased Operations In 2013 But The Battle Over Dismantling It Still Rages

When the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station officially ceased operations in 2013, most Americans moved on. But not in southern California, where activists and regulators are now at loggerheads over how to dismantle the site and where to store the spent nuclear fuel. 

Simply, when the nuclear plants are generating electricity, the spent fuel is placed in “pools” where it is cooled for about five years. That is called “wet storage.” After it has cooled, that radioactive fuel is then transferred to “dry storage,” or in a concrete cask. At the San Onofre site, known as SONGS, one-third of the nuclear waste is now such dry cask while two-thirds remains in “wet storage.”

“We are determined to complete the safe decommissioning of San Onofre as expeditiously and cost efficiently as possible,” says Edison International’s Southern California Edison. “Our immediate goal is to safely move the power plant’s used nuclear fuel, now cooling in pools, into dry cask storage as quickly and as carefully as we can until the government creates the long-term storage option that it has committed to implement.”

Last week, the California Coastal Commission voted unanimously to go ahead with dismantling SONGS, where 3.5 million pounds of used nuclear fuel is stored on site — a location easily visible from Interstate 5 and near the city of San Diego. The utility said that the process of moving the irradiated fuel from wet storage to dry storage will begin in 2020 and that it will take about 10 years. 

The decommissioning will employ 600 people and the $4.4 billion cost will be paid mostly by using investment funds, although a third of it will come from the utility’s ratepayers. The decommissioning general contractors are Aecom and EnergySolutions

In July 2012, Southern California Edison shut down the SONGS units because tubes located in newly installed steam generators had prematurely eroded — items that had been installed in 2009. Specifically, Unit 2 was taken down for routine maintenance. Unit 3, meanwhile, was taken off line a few weeks later because of the leaking tubes. That is, excessive vibrations caused the erosion of the tubes and the small radiation leaks. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said that the public was never in danger.

An international panel ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to pay in March $125 million to the utility because it had supplied the defective steam generators. 

“It’s a no-win,” Steve Padilla said, who is vice chair of the Coastal Commission, at last week’s hearing, per the San Diego Union Tribune. “If we fail to move this forward, we delay the decommissioning, we delay the ability to remediate the site … I just want the public and region here today to know that all of us are holding our nose.”

Unenviable Position

Critics of the Coastal Commission’s current permit to store the used fuel on site say that the canisters to be used have a “thin wall” and that those containers cannot be inspected, repaired or maintained when they are in the ground. Such canisters can crack and release radiation, they say, adding that the better solution is to leave the spent fuel where it is — in cooling ponds, where they could remain for another 40 years. But if it has to be moved and placed in canisters, then it should be few hundred yards east and on higher ground. SCE posted a video on its website showing recent canister inspections and a method for canister repair.

The Citizens’ Oversight Projects wants the canisters to have a much thicker outer shell, enabling them to better avoid corrosion and deterioration.

Skeptics are also drawing attention to an incident that occurred last year in which a 50-ton canister had been wedged for 45 minutes. The canister, which held spent nuclear fuel, was getting moved from the wet storage pools to the dry storage area.

What is happening at SONGS is a microcosm of what is now taking place in the nuclear energy sector. That is, there are 96 nuclear generating units that hold 70,000 tons of radioactive nuclear waste on site. Besides Southern California Edison, Entergy Corp. and Dominion Energy are closing merchant nuclear plants that compete in the open market. PG&E Corp., meanwhile, will shut down its nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon, by 2025. All of them will face a predicament similar to that of Southern California Edison.

As for Southern California Edison, it would like to see the spent fuel get transferred to an interim storage facility in Texas or New Mexico, or even to Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. However, moving the radioactive material over long distances and to someone else’s backyard is just as contentious. 

The storage of spent nuclear fuel has always been controversial. While a permanent storage facility would be the ideal solution, there is no political will to get that done. Therefore, on site storage has been the most practical method. And this is the unenviable position in which Southern California Edison now finds itself — and one to which the California Coastal Commission can relate. Unless the federal government steps in and overrules the commission’s decision, the spent fuel will start going from wet storage to dry storage in 2020.