Sunday, November 18, 2007

Newest Would-Be Nuclear Power Bail-Out

In the next several weeks, Congress is expected to vote on the newest taxpayer subsidy to the nuclear industry: $50 billion in loan guarantees for the building of new nuclear power plants.
Wall Street is nervous about putting its money up for new nuclear plants. Six of the nation’s largest investment banks—CitiGroup, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Lehpoman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley—recently told the U.S. Department of Energy that the high likelihood of delays and cost overruns in building new nuclear plants were just too much for Wall Street.
The banks' statement continued: “We believe these risks, combined with the higher capital costs and longer construction schedules of nuclear plants as compared to other generation facilities, will make lenders unwilling at present to extend long-term credit.”
That’s why U.S. Senator Peter Domenici of New Mexico, a nuclear power zealot, and the nuclear industry arranged for a provision in an energy bill now before Congress. It would leave taxpayers holding the bag in the event of defaults on new nuclear plants that Domenici, the nuclear industry and the Bush administration want to have built.
This would be the latest taxpayer subsidy for nuclear power. Among other subsidies is a measure that was supposed to be temporary, the Price Anderson Act (which, however, has become seemingly permanent) that limits the liability in the event of a catastrophic nuclear plant accident, like the Chernobyl disaster.
With a nuclear plant disaster in the United States, under the current version of Price Anderson, those who lose loved ones, develop cancer themselves, must evacuate their homes because of radiation—as happened to thousands around Chernobyl—compensation would be limited to a total of $10 billion.
And that’s a fraction of what government studies project as the costs of a nuclear plant disaster to be.
Insurance companies won’t insure for a nuclear plant accident. Try asking your insurance broker for a policy. The answer will be no. Look on your homeowners policy. In the U.S., they all have a “nuclear clause”—saying this policy won’t cover loss or damage caused by radiation.
It leaves one to ask: if nuclear power is so safe, why won’t insurance companies cover it?
If it makes any economic sense, why can’t it stand on its own economically—without taxpayer subsidies?
Safe energy proponents are urging people to call their senators and representatives to urge opposition to the $50 billion taxpayer nuclear bail-out.
Nuclear power is as unviable economically as it is in terms of safety.

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