UPDATE: With the passage of the stimulus bill through the Senate, now the joint conference committee will have to iron out the differences between the House and Senate bills. This is the last chance for Congress to strip this out of the bill. Does your Congressman know how you feel about nuclear pork?
Environmentalists are screaming but it doesn’t seem like anyone’s listening. So many articles are debating $50 million for this or that in the economic stimulus bill, but almost all of them seem to be ignoring the huge $50 BILLION slab of glowing pork, in the form of loan guarantees, for the nuclear industry slipped into the stimulus bill last Tuesday by Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah).
(A Washington Post article yesterday has some interesting background information. What they left out is why Bennett would be supporting nuclear pork. Anyone want to guess?)
Said Friends of the Earth President Brent Blackwelder in a Press Release last Wednesday,
Senators are supposed to be fixing the economy but instead they’re offering the nuclear industry a $50 billion gift that will create virtually no near-term jobs. It’s unconscionable. Lobbyists are probably popping champagne corks as we speak.
With a long licensing and regulatory process, nuclear reactors are simply not shovel-ready.
Stressed Michael Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), in a January 30th Press Release,
This is nothing more than a pre-emptive bailout of the nuclear power industry. It would have no stimulative effect on the economy and would create no new jobs, since no reactors will be licensed or can even be started in the two-year period the bill addresses.
Even if this were not the case, the “Nuclear Energy Institute-infamous for overstating nuclear power’s alleged benefits-acknowledges it costs about $1.5 million per job created by nuclear power.”
This would probably be the most expensive job creation program in recorded history. The Senate Appropriations Committee and Sen. Bennett knew they would lose a debate on this issue in the light of day, so they chose to sneak this provision in late at night, without any public awareness.
Department of Energy rules require all utilities seeking the maximum amount of loan guarantees (80% of project cost) to go through the Federal Financing Bank rather than private investment banks, on the grounds that the projects are just too risky and the costs too high for private banks. Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office has predicted a 50% default rate on nuclear construction loans. Taxpayers would be in the absurd position of providing funds to the nuclear industry for projects private banks could not and would not fund, and then guaranteeing that the industry would pay the money back to taxpayers.
Taxpayers would not only be providing guarantees for loans for multi-billion dollar nuclear reactors, taxpayers would be providing the actual funds, through the Federal Financing Bank.
Why should we ‘bail in’ an industry that is not economically viable on its own? The nuclear industry’s imagined renaissance could not take place without these taxpayer hand-outs, and industry executives have admitted that without loan guarantees no new nuclear power plants will be built.
We must tell Congress and the President that this glowing nuclear pork is unacceptable in a short-term stimulus bill, and call on them to reject this provision and support truly green jobs, which can be created now! In addition to signing onto the letter in the blog post below, sign onto NIRS’s letter and the Physicians for Social Responsibility petition.