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« Vogtle nuclear loan guarantee drags into fifth round of delays | Main | Nuclear revolving door gobbles up billions of dollars of ratepayers' money, threatening to move onto taxpayers next »
Tuesday
Dec172013

"A Christmas Peril": Obama DOE poised to risk $8.3 billion of taxpayer money on Vogtle 3 & 4 nuclear loan guarantee

Street theater performers, activist supporters, and members of the news media in front of DOE HQ on Dec. 11, 2009 protesting nuclear loan guarantees in solidarity with an International Climate Day of ActionIn late November, partners in the Vogtle 3 & 4 new reactor construction project in Georgia announced that they are "almost over the finish line" in negotations with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) regarding an $8.3 billion nuclear loan guarantee.

Not only would federal taxpayers back this massive loan guarantee -- they would also provide the loan, via the federal taxpayer-funded U.S. Finance Bank.

Giving the deal the highest possible profile, President Obama himself announced the award in Feb. 2010. However, DOE and proponents like Southern Nuclear have been squabbling ever since, about how much company "skin in the game" would be required to secure the loan guarantee. Documents unearthed thanks to a multi-year court battle waged by Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) under the Freedom of Information Act showed that a paltry $17 to $52 million were being asked at certain points in time. Despite this, Vogtle 3 & 4's pushers have been very reluctant for nearly four years now to sign on the dotted line.

The Vogtle 3 & 4 nuclear loan guarantee amounts to 15 times more taxpayer money at risk than was lost in the infamous Solyndra solar loan guarantee scandal ($535 million). Only, Vogtle 3 & 4's risk of default is significantly higher than Solyndra's was!

Meanwhile, Vogtle 3 and 4's behind-schedule, over-budget construction proceeds, funded by the gouging of ratepayers under Georgia's Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) charges on electricity bills -- illegal in most states.

In addition, over the past year, DOE has also forked over another $450 million in taxpayer subsidies to the nuclear power industry, in R&D support for "Small Modular Reactors." However, as pointed out by Beyond Nuclear board member Kay Drey of St. Louis, at 200-300 Megawatts-electric, SMRs should not be called "small." Two subsidy installments of around $225 million each have gone to NuScale-Fluor and Babcock & Wilcox-Bechtel, targeting construction at Idaho and the Tennessee Valley Authority, respectively.

Dr. Ed Lyman, Senior Scientist in the Global Security Program at Union of Concerned Scientists, has published a report, Small Isn't Always Beautiful: Safety, Security, and Cost Concerns about Small Modular Reactors.

Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President of Institute for Energy and Environmental Researcy, has also published a report, Light Water Designs of Small Modular Reactors: Facts and Analysis. The report is accompanied by an audio recording of a press conference.

On Dec. 11, 2009, Beyond Nuclear teamed up with Public Citizen and other allies like NIRS and FOE for a street theater at DOE HQ in Washington, D.C. entitled "A Christmas Peril." (see photo, above left; thanks to Public Citizen for an excellent video record of the fun event, complete with a soundtrack!) The performance, featuring the Ghosts of Nuclear Power's Past, Present, and Future, warned about and protested against President Obama's and DOE's decision, just a couple of months later, to award the $8.3 billion nuclear loan guarantee for Vogtle 3 & 4. The warning is as relevant as ever, now that Obama's DOE is poised to ink the deal, nearly four long years later.

Contact President Obama and Energy Secretary Moniz. Urge them to cancel the financially risky Vogtle 3 & 4 nuclear loan guarantee, before taxpayers get left holding the bag for many billions of dollars of unpaid loans if and when the project defaults. And urge them to stop subsidizing so-called SMRs -- after a half-century of enjoying the lion's share of taxpayer and ratepayer energy subsidies, nuclear power should at long last either stand on its own two feet in the marketplace, or else crawl into the dust bin of history where it belongs.

Also urge your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative to block any further subsidies, including loan guarantees, for nuclear power. They can be contacted via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.