Fukushima to San Antonio
Even if you are not among the crush of avant-garde shrewdly cramming Japanese in order to be on a first named basis with the radioactivity arriving from the Land of the Rising Sun, you may, nevertheless, find yourself pondering the meltdown that is launching those particles in our direction.
Then, once you have learned that the corporation whose irresponsible behavior is most responsible for that situation, Tokyo Electric (TEPCO), has been given a sweetheart deal
to join the syndicate that is expanding the nuclear complex known as the South Texas Project (STP), despite its long and public record of cutting corners on plant safety, surely you will recognize the need to understand what the push towards more nuclear power has meant for the Americans who call San Antonio home.
The macro-economic environment that our public utility (CPS) entered in 2009 was (and is) characterized by the dynamics of industry trying to outperform mature economies. In the United States, even in the best of times, we no longer expect growth to average much above three percent a year. In Japan, even such modest numbers are a fantasy. For a nation whose economy has produced a stagnation dubbed "the lost decades", any real growth at all would be heartening. While Japan and the USA may remain blue-chips, they are no longer growth stocks. The low-hanging fruit has all been picked. To satisfy the demands for high returns, these societies have supplemented normal business acumen with new areas of heightened profit: technological revolution and overhaul, investment in overseas "growth" markets (typically "emerging" or "third world" nations), financial chicanery, and privatization. In regards to overseas investment, Japan has, at the highest levels of business and government, formed a consortium of six of its most powerful corporations. What they are exporting to emerging and Third World markets is nuclear development. With a moribund and withered domestic nuclear industry emasculated by Three Mile Island coupled with the largest demand for energy on the planet offering almost unlimited profit potential, the United States fits neatly into the description of an emerging or Third World market. NRG Energy, of New Jersey, is the American face on this invasion. Their job, in a financial environment reluctant to take a flyer on risky nuclear deals in an uncertain market, is to "privatize" by leveraging their existing relationship with a public utility to provide the heavy lifting necessary to both pay for the project and the political cover to get the Federal loan guarantees without which the entire idea is a dead letter. These are the interlocutors with which the representatives of the people of San Antonio have decided to joust.
Steve Winn heads the syndicate created by NRG energy to get this deal done. It's called "Nuclear Innovation North America" (NINA). Mr. Winn is a top man in his field, formerly a senior vice-president at Lehmnann Brothers, whose specialty was financing energy deals. This top pro earns his money by getting the best deal for the stockholders of NRG.
San Antonio is, when ranked by population, among America's top ten cities. As cities go, it is an above average place to live. Some decades ago, inspired by the abundance of natural gas hereabout, the city leaders decided our public utility, CPS, would rely, almost entirely, on gas. Unfortunately, when that deal went sour because our supplier of choice would not deliver at the promised price, it was determined that we would never again put all our eggs in one basket.
This resolved into our (CPS') involvement in the original development of the STP project that produced the reactors known as STP 1 and STP 2. These were eventually completed way behind schedule and fantastically over cost. If we flash forward to current time, with those reactors approaching the halfway point in their life expectancy, we find once again our city leaders pondering which direction to go to meet the expanding energy needs generated here by our steady growth in population.