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Loan Guarantees

New reactor construction is so expensive and unpredictable that no U.S. utility is willing to take the risk without the backing of federal loan guarantees, potentially in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Beyond Nuclear and others fight to prevent the mature nuclear industry from seizing any such subsidies which are better spent on true climate solutions such as renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.

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Monday
Jan022012

Fukushima further bursts the bubble of the "nuclear renaissance"

Images such as this explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 reactor seared into the public's mind internationallyIn a new report entitled "Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Economics: Historically, Accidents Dim the Prospects for Nuclear Reactor Construction; Fukushima Will Have a Major Impact," Dr. Mark Cooper of the Vermont Law School's Institute for Energy and the Environment compares the cost increases for new reactor construction -- due to increased nuclear safety regulation in the aftermath of the 1979 Three Mile Island meltdown -- to escalating costs that can be expected after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe. Cooper points out, however, the new reactor construction costs were already skyrocketing before the TMI and Fukushima meltdowns -- but the accidents accelerated the cost increases dramatically.

He concludes: "From a big picture perspective, Fukushima has had and is likely to continue to have an electrifying impact because it combines the most powerful message from TMI on cost escalation with the most powerful message from Chernobyl on the risk of nuclear reactors in a nation where it was not supposed to happen. And, it has taken place in an environment where information and images flow instantaneously around the world, so the public sees the drama and trauma of losing control of a nuclear reaction in real time."

Cooper points out that of the dozens of new reactors proposed in the U.S. over the past decade, the number of reactors actually moving forward is but a handful, and those only through heavy subsidies, such as the $8.33 billion federal loan guarantee for two new AP1000s at Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia.

Thursday
Dec292011

What is really behind the "witch hunt" targeted at NRC Chairman Jaczko?

Alex Flint, now NEI's top lobbyist, was a primary author behind the creation of the nuclear loan guarantee program while a U.S. Senate stafferRyan Grim of Huffington Post, in an in-depth investigative report, documents that U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner (NRC) William Magwood IV and top Nuclear Energy Institute lobbyist Alex Flint have worked together before to "take down" Democratic political appointees in the nuclear energy field. Andrew Cockburn had also previously reported on this story at Counterpunch, quoting Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps:

“[NRC Chairman Jaczko's] not ‘our guy’ by any means, he has voted to re-license plants that should probably be shut down” says Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear.  “But he does care about safety, in ways that the [other NRC Commissioners] do not.”

Alex Flint (pictured, left), while serving as a top committee staffer for U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), Chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, was a primary author of the nuclear loan guarantee language in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which has already netted the nuclear power industry with $22.5 billion of taxpayer-backed nuclear loan guarantees for new reactors and uranium enrichment facilities. Flint now works for the Nuclear Energy Institute as Senior Vice President for Governmental Affairs.

One of Jaczko's greatest "transgressions" against the nuclear power industry and its right wing political supporters -- earning their eternal wrath -- seems to be his carrying out of President Obama's policy decision to phase out the Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste dump. Before becoming an NRC Commissioner, Magwood had advocated for opening the Yucca dump.

Media coverage of this "mutiny" at the highest levels of the NRC began on Friday, December 9th with U.S. Representative Darrell Issa's (Republican-California) public release of a letter from NRC Commissioners Magwood, Svinicki, Ostendorff, and Apostolakis to President Obama that was clearly marked "Not for Public Disclosure," and has continued up to the present, as documented, with links to the articles, at the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Project's What's News page.

The webcast of the 3 hour, 30 minute long hearing on these matters, conducted on Dec. 15, 2011 by the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), featuring the five NRC Commissioners as the sole witnesses, is archived online.

Thursday
Dec222011

Nuclear loan guarantee subsidized new reactors targeted at Georgia receive design approval by NRC

As reported by the New York Times, the five Commissioners of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission today approved the design certification for Toshiba-Westinghouse's so-called "Advanced Passive 1000" (AP1000, which is actually an 1,100 Megawatt-electric reactor) reactor design. This would allow construction of two new reactors at Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia, and two new reactors at Summer nuclear power plant in South Carolina, to accelerate. The approval comes despite a major design flaw identified by nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, working on behalf of an environmental coalition opposing new AP1000s proposed across the Southeast. Both the Vogtle and Summer new reactor projects enjoyed ratepayer subsidies in the form of current "Construction Work in Progress" charges on electricity bills, something that is illegal in most states. In addition, the Vogtle project received an $8.3 billion nuclear loan guarantee, announced by President Obama himself in February, 2010. If actually built, this would be the first new reactor order actually constructed in the U.S. since October 1973. All other orders after that point were either cancelled outright, or abandoned midway.

Friday
Nov182011

Washington Post coverage of DOE energy loan guarantee scandal

The Washington Post's lead editorial headline on November 18, 2011 got it spot on: "The Energy Department's loan guarantee program is the real Solyndra scandal." Since the "Solyndra solar scandal" began making headlines last summer, continuing to the present day, we list links to the Washington Post's coverage thus far (articles and editorials, but not including blogs) in hopes that lessons from the current solar loan guarantee scandal can be learned and applied to prevent much bigger nuclear loan guarantee defaults, leaving taxpayers holding the bag:

"U.S. offers $535 million loan toward solar energy plant," March 21, 2009;

"Obama's focus on visiting clean-tech companies raises questions," June 25, 2011 (the Washington Post also posted a video report, "Obama's Clean Tech Road Show");

"Lawmakers seek White House documents on Solyndra loan guarantee," July 14, 2011;

"Solyndra solar company fails after getting controversial federal loan guarantees," Aug. 31, 2011;

("U.S. Must Regain Lead in Solar Manufacturing," U.S. Department of Energy statement on day of Solyndra's bankruptcy announcement, Aug. 31, 2011);

"FBI searches offices of Solyndra; lawmakers say they were misled about firm's finances," Sept. 8, 2011 (AP t.v. also aired a report);

"Solyndra loan: White House pressed on review of solar company now under investigation," Sept. 13, 2011;

"Capitalizing on 'venture socialism,'" Sept. 18, 2011 (editorial);

"How Obama's plan for infrastructure bank would work," Sept. 19, 2011;

"House Judiciary Chair: Justice should probe Solyndra bankruptcy," Sept. 19, 2011;

"Solyndra executives will invoke the Fifth at House hearing," Sept. 20, 2011;

"Solyndra employees: Company suffered from mismanagement, heavy spending," Sept. 21, 2011;

"Heat rises for Solyndra in government probe," Sept. 23, 2011 (Associated Press t.v.);

"Who had the worst week in Washington? Solyndra," Sept. 23, 2011;

"Solyndra executives take the Fifth before U.S. House subcommittee," Sept. 23, 2011;

"Senate rejects government spending bill, leaving open possibility of government shut down," Sept. 23, 2011.

"McDermott tapped to represent Solyndra," Sept. 25, 2011;

"The birthing of Solyndra," Sept. 26, 2011 (editorial);

"Investment in failed solar firm Solyndra raises questions about nonprofit's purpose," Sept. 27, 2011;

"Solyndra violated loan terms in 2010 but got more federal money, DOE confirms," Sept. 28-29, 2011;

 

 

 

Friday
Nov182011

"The Energy Department's loan guarantee program is the real Solyndra scandal"

Today's Washington Post editorial headline above got it spot on! A high-profile hearing before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce government oversight subcommittee has shined a bright spotlight on the "Solyndra solar scandal," but nary a word about much more risky nuclear loan guarantees was uttered. The Washington Post has run three articles and an editorial in the past two days in its print edition: yesterday's "Solyndra made demands of Energy Department" and "Upton sought loan for now-ailing solar company in Michigan"; today's front page above the fold "Energy chief defends agency"; and today's lead editorial "No fun in the sun." Hopefully, the magnifying lens being taken to the Solyndra solar loan guarantee default will also be applied to already approved, and future proposed, nuclear loan guarantees! See Beyond Nuclear's nuclear loan guarantee website section for more information, as well as our summary backgrounder on U.S. Representative Fred Upton's (R-MI) nuclear power industry cheerleading (see the section entitled "Handing over the keys of the U.S. Treasury to the nuclear power industry").

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