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Enviros fend off nuke money grabs – for now

A coalition of national and grassroots environmental and taxpayer groups have successfully blocked numerous attempts at nuclear power industry subsidies, and even safety regulation rollbacks, this entire congressional session. The nuclear lobbyists have not secured unlimited federal loan guarantees, as they tried to do in Senator Bingaman's (D-NM) "American Clean Energy Leadership Act" (ACELA), which passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in June, 2009 but hasn't moved since. They have not secured "streamlining" of new reactor licensing and gutting of the National Environmental Policy Act, as they attempted on the Kerry (D-MA)-Lieberman (I-CT) "American Power Act," indefinitely postponed last week: despite a mile long nuclear industry wish list included in the bill, not a single Republican was wooed to support the legislation's woefully inadequate climate protections. Despite passage on the House floor on July 1st in an emergency war funding and disaster relief supplemental appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2010, $9 billion in expanded nuclear loan guarantees snuck onto the House bill died a sudden death when the Senate version -- lacking that provision -- prevailed. And there is a big difference in nuclear loan guarantee funding levels in the House ($25 billion) and Senate ($10 billion) versions of Fiscal Year 2011 energy and water appropriations bills, that now have to be reconciled in conference committee, giving us more opportunities to oppose them; both versions are less than the amount the Obama administration has requested ($34 billion). A last second attempt to attach $9 billion in nuclear loan guarantees onto a small business stimulus bill on the Senate floor also appears to have failed.

Our efforts have resulted in Constellation Energy threatening to cancel its proposed French Areva EPR ("Evolutionary Power Reactor"), Calvert Cliffs 3, unless the Energy Department awards its requested loan guarantee by December. These new reactor woes on the Chesapeake Bay shoreline in Maryland have added to financial tremors in the Paris boardroom of Electricite de France.

NRG Energy has threatened to cancel its two proposed Toshiba-Westinghouse ABWRs ("Advanced Boiling Water Reactors") at the South Texas Project nuclear power plant near Bay City, if DOE awards the Calvert Cliffs proposal without also committing additional funding support for it. Meanwhile, estimated capital and financing costs for proposed new reactors continue to skyrocket, and reactor design certification and combined construction and operating license proceedings continue to bog down at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as environmental coalitions intervene and reveal flaws in the designs and applications.

As the House of Representatives recesses at the end of this week, and the Senate at the end of next week, these victories deserve celebrating – and continued vigilance. Both Houses will be back in session on September 7th, and the nuclear power industsry -- which has spent $645 million in lobbying, as well as $63 million in campaign contributions, at the federal level between 1999 and 2009 -- will be knocking on their doors. Call your U.S. Senators and Representative at (202) 224-3121 to urge they block any more attempted money grabs and regulatory rollbacks. Get together with other concerned constituents, environmental and taxpayer groups, and request a meeting with your Member during their time back in your area during the August congressional recess. And thank you for your efforts to fend off a taxpayer-funded, radioactively risky nuclear power relapse -- we are making a difference!