Nuclear Costs

Estimates for new reactor construction costs continue to sky-rocket. Conservative estimates range between $6 and $12 billion per reactor but Standard & Poor's predicts a continued rise. The nuclear power industry is lobbying for heavy federal subsidization including unlimited loan guarantees but the Congressional Budget Office predicts the risk of default will be well over 50 percent, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. Beyond Nuclear opposes taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies for the nuclear energy industry.



Beyond Nuclear denounces President Obama's decision to transfer risks for new atomic reactors onto U.S. taxpayers

President Obama himself, flanked by nuclear power industry unions such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (photo at left), today announced the awarding of an $8.3 billion, taxpayer-backed loan guarantee to Southern Nuclear Company of Georgia for its proposed twin-reactor expansion at Plant Vogtle near Augusta. Ironically, Plant Vogtle's currently operating twin reactor nuclear power plant was the poster child of cost overruns in the last generation of reactor building -- coming in at a whopping 13-fold, or over 1,000%, cost overrun. Such skyrocketing costs delivered the death blow to nuclear power plant construction in the United States, even before Three Mile Island melted down in 1979. In a follow up press conference today, Energy Secretary Steven Chu revealed his ignorance of the Congressional Budget Office's prediction that over half of new atomic reactors will default on their loan repayments. This will, of course, leave taxpayers holding the bag for many billions of dollars per failed project. Financial analysts are unconvinced that such federal largesse is sufficient to achieve the nuclear power industry's coveted "renaissance." They have even pointed out that, despite President Obama completing President Bush's unfinished favor -- at taxpayer expense -- for the nuclear power industry, it is too little, too late to achieve a nuclear power relapse in this country. Beyond Nuclear immediately issued a media release denouncing President Obama's decision. Beyond Nuclear board member Karl Grossman wrote "Obama's Change on Nuclear Power" in response to today's nuclear loan guarantee announcement. Bob Alvarez of Institute for Policy Studies responded to President Obama's pro-nuclear power, and even pro-nuclear weapons, policies with "Nukes Aren't the Answer." In fact, the environmental and taxpayer coalition opposed to nuclear power loan guarantees erupted with a "negative reaction," a flurry of fury, including from Public Citizen; PSR; Friends of the Earth; Environment America; Sierra Club; and Taxpayers for Common Sense. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader  calls President Barack Obama’s loan guarantee for nuclear power plants a "monumental mistake." Watch  Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps on Al Jazeera English interview (play the "In video" report by John Terrett in the lower right hand corner). Watch Kevin debate the Nuclear Energy Institute's top lobbyist, Alex Flint, on C-SPAN's Washington Journal from 7:45-8:30 a.m. on Wed., Feb. 17th. As the top staffer for former U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee at the time), Alex Flint played a lead role in the writing and passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which established the nuclear loan guarantee program in the first place, as well as awarded another $13 billion in federal subsidies to the nuclear power industry. In fact, as reported by Mike Stuckey of MSNBC, Alex Flint has passed through the revolving door between the nuclear power industry and Capitol Hill more than once, making himself a pretty penny in the process.


Nuclear power industry has spent nearly $650 million in lobbying and $63 million in campaign contributions in past decade alone

The Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University's School of Communication, in collaboration with McClatchy Newspapers, published "Nuclear energy lobby working hard to win support" by Judy Pasternak last month. The article reports that nuclear utilities, labor unions, and other companies with financial interests in nuclear power's expansion have "invested" large sums of money on Capitol Hill in an attempt to win legislative victories to subsidize new reactors, open a national radioactive waste dump at Yucca Mountain, and achieve other industry priorities. In addition, the Obama administration's close ties to Exelon Nuclear, the largest nuclear utility in the U.S., are documented.


Obama DOE to grant first new atomic reactor federal loan guarantee to Plant Vogtle in Georgia

Dow Jones Newswires has reported, according to sources close to the matter, that the Obama administration's U.S. Department of Energy has decided to grant the first federal taxpayer backed nuclear loan guarantee to the Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant in Georgia. Beyond Nuclear immediately issued a media release, denouncing this transfer of financial risk onto U.S. taxpayers, as well as this creation of radiological risk through DOE financing a reactor design which the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission just last October cited as having a major safety flaw. President Obama is putting such a political priority on this first nuclear power loan guarantee, the Associated Press reports, that he will announce it himself sometime next week. A spokeswoman from Southern Nuclear, beneficiary of the taxpayer-backed loan guarantee, responded “We are excited about the support for our project and for nuclear in general.” This is not change we can believe in. Call President Obama at the White House comment line (202-456-1111) to register your disapproval, then call your two U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative (via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard, 202-224-3121) to urge them to block President Obama's recent request to triple the nuclear loan guarantee program fund from $18.5 billion to $54.5 billion for financing new reactor construction which otherwise private investors would refuse to touch. Avenging Angels' graphic to the left (used with permission) graced the May 12, 2008 cover of The Nation Magazine, which featured Christian Parenti's excellent article "What Nuclear Renaissance?" As the "Burning Money" graphic indicates, any nuclear power relapse in the U.S. can only be carried out at taxpayers' financial, as well as radiological, risk.


Nuclear Renaissance "A First Class Train Wreck"

Former NRC Commissioner Peter Bradford has recently called the nuclear "renaissance" at taxpayer expense "a first class train wreck." His recent op-ed to the Madison, Wisconsin Capital Times explains some of the reasons why.


Nonproliferation Policy Education Center warns that nuclear power subsidies risk worldwide proliferation of nuclear weapons 

Henry Sokolski, Executive Director of NPEC, has warned that U.S. Department of Energy taxpayer-backed loan guarantees for new atomic reactors in the U.S. will set a bad international example that could be followed by foreign governments seeking to conceal nuclear weapon programs behind a nuclear power facade. He points out that a large-scale atomic reactor can generate enough plutonium each year for "scores" of nuclear weapons, if it is chemically separated from radioactive waste. In addition, the enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel fabrication can be readily diverted for the manufacture of bomb-grade high enriched uranium (HEU).