Who’s asking for (and getting) even more taxpayer bailouts? Hint: they’ve done it before

Panel at the White House Nuclear Energy Summit (includes EPA's Janet McCabe, former NRC Commissioner Bill Magwood, among others)

Once again the nuclear power industry is the culprit and once again, the Obama Administration, like numerous previous Administrations, is the enabler — obliging an industry to the detriment of U.S. taxpayers by continuing to push an “all of the above” energy policy.

On the heels of the wise rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline today, another polluting player in the energy sector received some significant bolstering. This afternoon the “White House Summit on Nuclear Energy” was held for the flailing nuclear power industry, which has been rocked by several early closures of nuclear plants and major debacles at all the under-construction nuclear projects here in the U.S. (TVA’s Watts Bar 2 in Tennessee, Southern Company’s Vogtle 3 & 4 in Georgia and SCANA’s V.C. Summer 2 & 3 in South Carolina). The industry and its proponents, such as the Nuclear Energy Institute and Third Way, which not surprisingly helped organize and participated in today’s pep rally, misleadingly claim that carbon emission reductions, such as required by the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and being discussed at the upcoming U.N. climate conference in Paris, can only happen if nuclear power is expanded.

An extensive fact sheet released by the White House on “Actions to Ensure that Nuclear Energy Remains a Vibrant Component of the United States’ Clean Energy Strategy” includes a host of wish-list items (read: bailouts & subsidies paid for -again- by the taxpayers) for the nuclear power industry, such as:

Supplementing Loan Guarantee Solicitation for Nuclear Energy: Today, DOE is supplementing its existing solicitation that makes up to $12.5 billion in loan guarantees available to support innovative nuclear energy projects. The solicitation states that eligible projects can include construction of advanced nuclear reactors, small modular reactors, uprates and upgrades at existing facilities, and front-end nuclear facilities. In addition, the new supplement clarifies that project costs for an eligible project that are incurred as part of the NRC licensing process, such as design certification, construction permits, and combined construction and operating licenses (COL), could be eligible costs that may be financed with a loan guaranteed by DOE.

(Psssst…don’t forget the lack of transparency that occurred with the $8.3 billion in taxpayer-backed federal loan guarantees doled out for Plant Vogtle’s expansion.)

Politico blasted today’s summit: “The nuclear crowd is certainly excited for the attention and the summit will also let them feel like part of Team Climate, given the industry’s sense of being the unloved stepchild of the whole enterprise. Nuclear wonks shed tears when Congress nixed cap-and-trade in the president’s first term and the EPA’s Clean Power Plan feels a bit too little too late while reactors permanently unplug from the grid.

Hopefully Politico is right and today’s event is really just another cheerleading event for a floundering industry that is grasping at any means to stay afloat and not a true commitment of the limited time and financial resources we have to a technology that cannot deliver carbon emission reductions in an expedient and affordable manner.

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1 Comment

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Sara Barczack’s column provides a candidly refreshing contrast and balance. Many viewers of White House’s National Energy Summit live stream video yesterday found this balance conspicuously missing.
Other readers like myself are impressed by her accurate observations, and targeted criticism of subsidies, fully guaranteed government loans, or industry promises for bailouts which will leave taxpayers holding the bag.
Many stakeholders feel marginalized by White House’s apparent deferral to an obsolete nuclear industry giant, that failed to produce promised benefits (affordable, reliable, safe power), and instead advocates energy policy with more nuclear energy, when exclusive use of real renewable sources are so viable, which don’t leave toxic waste legacy, safety risks and costs to future generations.
Clean Energy advocates instead feel nuclear experts grossly underestimate credible risks, and grossly overestimate performance capabilities, system robustness, defense in depth and safety redundancy, and exert an over-reliance on nonexistent, future technological advances and premature funding for ‘vaporware’. Clean Energy advocates felt excluded from meaningful active public participation, when early online comments were entirely ignored during the 4 hour Summit.

Comment by patricia borchmann on November 7, 2015 10:05 pm

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