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ARTICLE ARCHIVE

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.

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Saturday
Jul242010

"Energy Dept. ignores Obama's openness pledge," by Peter Bradford

Former Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Peter Bradford has slammed the U.S. Department of Energy in a recent op-ed in the Madison, Wisconsin Cap Times for its secrecy surrounding federal loan guarantees for new atomic reactors. Bradford argues that such secrecy harms taxpayers, the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries, and public service commissions' ability to protect ratepayers. He should know, he used to chair the utility regulatory commissions for the States of New York and Maine. A year ago, a coalition of national environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear, wrote the Energy Secretary, urging that the nuclear loan guarantee program be made open and transparent, in accord with President Obama's calls for such on his very fist day in office.

Saturday
Jul242010

Kerry-Lieberman bill averted for now, but "energy-only bill" nuclear threats persist in U.S. Senate

Democratic Party leaders have indefinitely postponed the Kerry-Lieberman “American Power Act” climate-energy bill, due to lock-step Republican opposition to carbon cap “energy taxation,” but nuclear power subsidies must still be vigilantly guarded against in other legislation.

The Kerry-Lieberman "American Power Act" would have subsidized new atomic reactors in various ways, including raising nuclear power loan guarantee funding levels to $54.5 billion, as called for by the Obama administration. In addition, Kerry-Lieberman would have introduced a number of significant rollbacks on nuclear safety regulations. Analyses by NRDC, PSR, FOE, and UCS have highlighted numerous environmental and taxpayer concerns with the bill. NIRS has reported on how the nuclear loan guarantees would actually benefit foreign firms and workers, not American firms and workers, despite the financial risks being borne by American taxpayers. Despite Kerry-Lieberman's postponement, attachment of such provisions to other bills that are moving must still be guarded against.

However, the Senate has not recessed for its annual summer getaway from Washington D.C.'s blistering heat and humidity yet, and won't till August 7th. Thus, we must remain vigilant against any attempts by the politically savvy and powerful nuclear power industry to attach its mile-long-wish-list to another package of energy legislation that might reach the Senate floor, including by amendments offered by pro-nuclear Senators.

One bill to continue to watch out for is Sen. Bingaman's "American Clean Energy Leadership Act" (ACELA), which passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in June 2009. It contains unlimited nuclear power loan guarantees, without congressional appropriations oversight.

Appropriations bills in both houses of Congress must also be watched out for. The House of Representatives passed $9 billion in nuclear loan guarantees on the emergency supplemental war and disaster relief funding bill on July 1st. The House Energy and Water Appropriations subcommittee also recently passed $25 billion in nuclear loan guarantees on its Fiscal Year 2011 Energy and Water Appropriations bill. If ultimately enacted into law, this would add up to the $34 billion in expanded nuclear loan guarantees called for by the Obama administration for FY2011.

Although final Senate action on such provisions is still pending, the Senate Appropriations Committee today did approve another $10 billion in nuclear loan guarantees.

It's ironic that the House and Senate continue to lard radioactive pork, in the form of nuclear loan guarantees, onto appropriations, climate and energy bills, given the U.S. Government Accountability Office's scathing report on the failing state of the Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program. This includes the finding that DOE has given significant and undue advantage to nuclear power applicants, over other applicants.  Nuclear power subsidies even seem to be given priority over such basic societal needs as teachers' salaries, as pointed out by FOE.

As these appropriations bills continue to make their way through each house of Congress, and eventually merge in conference committee, we must continue to express our opposition to nuclear power subsidies at every turn.

Call both your U.S. Senators and Representative via the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. At the Library of Congress website, you can also look up your Members' fax numbers and postal addresses for submitting hand written letters, as well as their webform for submitting electronic mail: click on "Senate" and "House of Representatives" on the left hand side, to look up your own Members of Congress.

Urge them to block any nuclear power subsidies, or nuclear safety regulation rollbacks, from being added to any energy or appropriations legislation. Gather together a group of concerned citizens, or representatives of environmental and taxpayer groups in your area, and request a meeting with both of your Senators, as well as your U.S. Representative, during their visit home during the August congressional recess. If your Members of Congress say they are too busy to meet with you, request to meet with their staff instead. Contact Kevin Kamps at Beyond Nuclear, (301) 270-2209 ext. 1 or kevin@beyondnuclear.org, if you have any questions about how to set up a meeting with congressional home-district offices.

Saturday
Jul242010

Environmental coalition letter to U.S. Senate Appropriators opposing additional dirty energy loan guarantees

 

On July 21st, a coalition of ten national environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear, wrote the Members of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, urging that no additional dirty energy loan guarantees for the fossil fuels and nuclear power industries be included in the Fiscal Year 2011 Energy and Water Appropriations bill. Unfortunately, $10 billion in nuclear loan guarantees and $7 billion in fossil fuels loan guarantees were included in the bill, approved in committee on a party line vote on July 22nd.  By contrast, renewables and efficiency loan guarantees were capped at a maximum of $3.8 billion -- meaning the actual level could be lowered. It seems that not only is the U.S. Dept. of Energy favoring nuclear projects over others, but so are U.S. Senate Appropriators. However, our pressure may have headed off an amendment in committee that would have larded even more radioactive and dirty fossil fuels pork onto these loan guarantee figures.

Last February, the Obama administration requested $34 billion in additional nuclear power loan guarantees, to add to the $20.5 billion already approved in 2007.

Thus far, the full House has approved $9 billion of additional nuclear loan guarantees -- approved on the House floor on July 1st as a rider on the Fiscal Year 2010 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill, a bill intended to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as disaster relief. However, on July 22nd, by a 51 to 46 vote, the Senate rejected this House language. $10 billion to keep teachers on the job, rather than nuclear loan guarantees, was the primary issue of difference between the two houses, however. But, this means that the $9 billion in nuclear loan guarantees will likely be dropped, as the House must either agree with already passed Senate language, or else the war funding and disaster relief appropriations bill will not pass at all.

Also, last week, the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee approved $25 billion in new nuclear loan guarantees, matched by $25 billion for renewables/efficiency. The full House Appropriations Committee has yet to act on the bill. This $25 billion nuclear loan guarantee figure from the House would have to be reconciled with the $10 billion nuclear loan guarantee figure from the Senate.

The fight would normally now go to a conference committee between House and Senate Appropriators for the FY2011 Appropriations bill. However, a more likely scenario is that a "continuing resolution" (a CR) will be passed by both houses of Congress, freezing spending levels at FY2010 levels (meaning no additional nuclear loan guarantees, yet). Then, after November's mid-term elections, an Omnibus Appropriations bill would be proposed on both house floors, which would then go to conference committee, if necessary due to any differences, this December for final approval, to set funding levels for the remainder of FY11.

This will be a very dangerous time to guard against additions of large amounts of nuclear loan guarantees. It was on just such an Omnibus Appropriations bill, on Dec. 23, 2007 -- when most Americans were more concerned about holiday celebrations than Capitol Hill shenanigans -- that the current $20.5 billion in nuclear loan guarantees were approved.

Thank you to all who contacted their U.S. Senators and Representative during the latest flurry of attempted nuclear power industry money grabs in the U.S. Congress. We will need to remain vigilant for the foreseeable future.

Friday
Jul162010

U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy & Water Appropriations approves $25 billion in additional nuclear loan guarantees

Thanks to everyone who acted on our alert and called your U.S. Representatives. Unfortunately, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Water Appropriations earlier today did approve $25 billion in additional nuclear loan guarantees on the Fiscal Year 2011 Energy and Water Appropriations bill. By the way, the bill also would provide $7 billion to the Dept. of Energy for maintaining and even expanding the nuclear weapons complex, and $1 billion for U.S. Navy nuclear reactors. Just over $5 billion would be appropriated for cleaning up the radioactive messes left over from manufacturing nuclear weapons in the first place. And another $824 million would go to the DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy, for research and development aimed at expanding atomic energy. Congressman Pastor (D-AZ), the chairman of the subcommittee, put out a statement breaking down these and other funding levels.

While the bill also approved $25 billion in loan guarantees for renewable and energy efficiency projects, there is already more money than the renewables and efficiency industries can use in the federal energy loan guarantee coffers. This is especially true, because the DOE has decided to charge such projects a 10% or higher "credit subsidy" fee for applying for loan guarantees, while only charging the nuclear industry around a 3% application fee, even though the former are less financially risky, while nuclear is more financially risky. These "credit subsidy" fees are supposed to cover the cost of project defaults. But the Congressional Budget Office has predicted, based on the nuclear industry's past record, that well over 50% of new reactors will default on their loan repayments, leaving taxpayers holding the bag for 49% of the repayment on defaulted loans. A 10% or higher credit subsidy fee for applying for loan guarantees is cost prohibitive to most renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Just this week, the Government Accountability Office slammed DOE for its half-baked energy loan guarantee program, including for inappropriately favoring nuclear projects over and above renewables projects!

Friends of the Earth has appropriately asked "Did Democratic Leadership Try to Buy a House Seat with a $25 Billion Nuclear Bailout?" Regarding the July 1st House approval of nuclear loan guarantees but rejection of safeguarding teachers' paychecks, FOE stated "Nuke Industry Bullies Students, Demands Lunch Money." We appreciate their insightful communications on these mind boggling nuclear power industry money grabs at taxpayers' pocket books, aided and abetted by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Senate has not taken up this $25 billion in nuclear loan guarantees, nor the $9 billion in nuclear loan guarantees passed on the House floor on July 1st as part of the emergency war funding bill. Thus, calls to U.S. Senators urging they block any new nuclear loan guarantees would be valuable right now. The Capitol Switchboard can patch you through: (202) 224-3121.

Also, the full House Appropriations Committee, and the full House of Representatives, have not yet approved the $25 billion in new nuclear loan guarantees -- so now is the time to continue calling your U.S. Representative at the number above, and urge that they strip the nuclear loan guarantees out of the Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations act! 

Thursday
Jul152010

Urgent alert: act now to block $25 billion MORE in nuclear loan guarantees on FY2011 Energy and Water Appropriations bill!

Call your U.S. Representative as soon as possible via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Urge them to do all they can to block $25 billion in additional nuclear power loan guarantees scheduled to be voted on by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water tomorrow, Thursday, July 15th at 2pm.

Thanks to everyone who, over the past several weeks, responded to our numerous action alerts and contacted their U.S. Representative to "declare independence from a nuclear industry bailout" by urging opposition to the $9 billion in new nuclear loan guarantees snuck onto the Fiscal Year 2010 emergency supplemental spending bill (a bill primarily intended to provide additional funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as disaster relief). Unfortunately, the House passed the measure late at night on Thursday, July 1st -- ironically, at the 11th hour, as they were rushing to leave town for the 4th of July congressional recess! This happened despite an outcry from national environmental as well as taxpayer groups, and opposition expressed by nine Members of the House -- led by U.S. Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD) -- to the nuclear power industry money grab. This $9 billion represents an "advance" into FY2010 of a part of the $34 billion increase in the nuclear power loan guarantee funding requested by the Obama administration earlier this year. The U.S. Senate has yet to act on the $9 billion "advance" proposal (so call both your U.S. Senators via the Capitol Switchboard and urge that they block it!).

The big stink we raised about that $9 billion "advance" may have led House Appropriations Committee leaders to decide not to include the additional $25 billion in nuclear loan guarantees requested by the Obama administration in the FY2011 Energy and Water Appropriations bill unveiled in late June. But pro-nuclear power Democrats on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee -- namely Chet Edwards (D-TX), Chaka Fatta (D-PA), and Marion Berry (D-AR) -- made a stink of their own, leading to the postponement of the bill's mark up session in late June. A coalition of environmental groups urged House Appropriators at that time to strip the $25 billion in nuclear loan guarantees from the bill. (Luminant has proposed building new reactors in Edwards' district; Fattah represents Philadelphia, a hometown to Exelon, the largest nuclear utility in the U.S., which hopes to build new reactors; Berry is from the host state to the "Arkansas Nuclear One" twin reactors, owned by Entergy, the second biggest nuclear utility in the U.S., which hopes to build numerous new reactors in the Southeast).

But now the FY2011 Energy and Water Appropriations bill is back on the front burner, and unfortunately does contain the $25 billion in nuclear loan guarantees. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water is scheduled to meet on Thursday, July 14 at 2pm Eastern time to vote on the FY2011 spending bill, including this major increase in nuclear loan guarantees. A dozen national environmental groups wrote House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (D-WI) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) today, urging the $25 billion in nuclear loan guarantees be removed from the bill.

Please call your U.S. Representative right away via the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Urge them to block this pre-emptive bailout to the already heavily subsidized and filthy rich nuclear power industry. If your Member serves on this subcommittee, it is especially vital that you call them. If your Member serves on the full House Appropriations Committee, urge them to weigh in with their colleagues on the subcommittee. And if your Member does not sit on the Appropriations Committee, urge them to protect the American taxpayer by weighing in with their colleagues who do serve on the committee.

You can also track down your House Member's DC fax number to fax in a handwritten letter, or their website to submit a webform or email, via the Library of Congress website. But be sure to act right away!

In February, President Obama himself announced the awarding of $8.3 billion in nuclear loan guarantees for new reactors at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia. This leaves another $10.2 billion in new reactor loan guarantee funding at the Dept. of Energy, likely poised to be awarded to the new French Areva "Evolutionary Power Reactor" proposed at Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant in Maryland. In addition, in May the Energy Secretary awarded $2 billion in loan guarantees for a new Areva uranium enrichment facility targeted at Idaho. DOE has committed another $2 billion towards a new uranium enrichment facility proposed by U.S. Enrichment Corp. in Portsmouth, Ohio. This initial $22.5 billion in nuclear loan guarantees was originally appropriated at the end of 2007.

The additional $9 billion approved by the House two weeks ago would likely go towards new reactors at the South Texas Project. The added $25 billion now proposed could go towards yet more new reactors targeted at Summer nuclear power plant in South Carolina -- new reactors that Friends of the Earths' South Carolina organizer Tom Clements has helped lead opposition against. None of these new reactor designs have yet received final design certification from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, nor construction and operating licenses. In fact, numerous serious design flaws have been documented with the new reactor proposals, as the price tags continue to skyrocket. The Congressional Budget Office has put the financial risk of a default on loan repayment, leaving taxpayers holding the bag, at over 50%. Just two days ago, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that the Dept. of Energy loan guarantee program is still flawed, and has inappropriately supported nuclear power over renewables and efficiency. The risks of large-scale radiological releases remain to be seen.