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Can Obama Stop the Nuclear Bomb in the Senate Stimulus Plan?

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A radioactive dirty bomb has been dropped on the Senate stimulus package.

On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to add $50 billion in nuclear loan guarantees to the economic recovery package (S. 336). This "would more than double the current loan guarantee cap of $38 billion" for "clean energy" technology.

Yet this provision would not create a single job for many, many years, but would saddle the public with tens of millions of dollars more in toxic loans. As I noted in my 2008 report, "The Self-Limiting Future of Nuclear Power":

In August 2007, Tulsa World reported that American Electric Power Co. CEO Michael Morris was not planning to build any new nuclear power plants. He was quoted as saying, "I'm not convinced we'll see a new nuclear station before probably the 2020 timeline,"

Morris further noted "Builders would also have to queue for certain parts."

Indeed, the nuclear industry is riddled with bottlenecks. For instance, Japan Steel Works is "the only plant in the world ... capable of producing the central part of a nuclear reactor's containment vessel in a single piece, reducing the risk of a radiation leak." And they have a backlog of a few years already.

The additional loans would probably not even result in a single new signed contract for a plant over the next two years, let alone produce a single job in Obama's first term -- other than maybe a few high-priced lawyers and lobbyists to twist the arms of state Public Utility Commissioners to shove the inevitable rate increase down the throats of consumers (see "Exclusive analysis, Part 1: The staggering cost of new nuclear power"). Turkey seems smarter than that (see "Turkey's only bidder for first nuclear plant offers a price of 21 cents per kilowatt-hour"). Are we?

Why are we still propping up an industry that can't survive without the taxpayer swallowing both the economic risk of an actual meltdown and the risk of the new nukes melting down financially -- all for a mature technology that has already received more than $100 billion in direct and indirect subsidies (see "Nuclear Pork -- Enough is Enough")?

Here is the proposed language for this nuclear bomb:

TITLE 17--INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGY LOAN GUARANTEE PROGRAM

The Committee also recommends an additional $50,000,000,000 to support the deployment of eligible technologies under the Section 1702(b)(2) of EPACT 2005 that will contribute to transforming the energy sector. This funding will add to the existing loan guarantee authority provided in other appropriations bills to support self-financed loan guarantees. The Committee is aware of the strong interest in the program and the large number of pending applications.

The Center for American Progress noted last week (see "Senate stimulus plan out-greens the House"):

This expanded loan guarantee program is the type of unnecessary pork barrel spending that President Obama urged Congress to avoid, and it should be removed from the final bill.

WonkRoom has more details on just how outrageous this provision is:

In contrast, the committee allocated only $9.5 billion exclusively for "standard renewable energy projects." Although the loan guarantee program covers nuclear technology, carbon capture and sequestration for coal plants, as well as renewable energy, the vast bulk of requested loans -- $122 billion -- are for new nuclear power plants. This $50 billion nuclear throwaway nearly matches the total allocation for genuinely clean energy in the House version of the stimulus package: only $52 billion in total for smart grid, renewable energy, and energy efficiency investments.

Unlike renewable energy and energy efficiency technology, investments in the nuclear industry generate few jobs or economic growth. The nuclear industry has developed through massive federal subsidization from research to deployment over decades. Such a massive expenditure of nuclear pork has no place in the economic recovery bill. Brent Blackwelder of Friends of the Earth, who discovered the nuclear pork, called the appropriations "unconscionable":

"Now is not the time for another bailout boondoggle. Nuclear power is the most expensive form of energy there is. It takes 10 years or more to build a reactor, so it is impossible to claim with a straight face that this preemptive bailout has anything to do with creating jobs. Senate appropriators' decision to include such wasteful spending in the stimulus is an example of Washington at its worst."

 

E&E News reports that two of the Senate's strongest nuclear supporters, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Mike Crapo (R-ID), are pushing for more nuclear goodies:

"A proposed $2 billion in manufacturing tax credits in the Finance Committee mark only applies to production of components for renewable energy, electric or hybrid-electric car storage systems, grid and efficiency components, carbon capture and storage equipment and renewable fuels. Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) are working to change the manufacturing tax incentive so that it is 'technology neutral'."

Ban the bomb!

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