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Thursday
Jul152010

U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy & Water Appropriations approves $25 billion in additional nuclear loan guarantees

Thanks to everyone who acted on our alert and called your U.S. Representatives. Unfortunately, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Water Appropriations earlier today did approve $25 billion in additional nuclear loan guarantees on the Fiscal Year 2011 Energy and Water Appropriations bill. By the way, the bill also would provide $7 billion to the Dept. of Energy for maintaining and even expanding the nuclear weapons complex, and $1 billion for U.S. Navy nuclear reactors. Just over $5 billion would be appropriated for cleaning up the radioactive messes left over from manufacturing nuclear weapons in the first place. And another $824 million would go to the DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy, for research and development aimed at expanding atomic energy. Congressman Pastor (D-AZ), the chairman of the subcommittee, put out a statement breaking down these and other funding levels.

While the bill also approved $25 billion in loan guarantees for renewable and energy efficiency projects, there is already more money than the renewables and efficiency industries can use in the federal energy loan guarantee coffers. This is especially true, because the DOE has decided to charge such projects a 10% or higher application fee, while only charging the nuclear industry around a 3% application fee, even though the former are less financially risky, while nuclear is more financially risky. These "credit subsidy" fees are supposed to cover the cost of project defaults. But the Congressional Budget Office has predicted, based on the nuclear industry's past record, that well over 50% of new reactors will default on their loan repayments, leaving taxpayers holding the bag for 49% of the repayment on defaulted loans. A 10% or higher "credit subsidy" application fee for a loan guarantee is cost prohibitive to most renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Just this week, the Government Accountability Office slammed DOE for its half-baked energy loan guarantee program, including for inappropriately favoring nuclear projects over and above renewables projects!

Friends of the Earth has appropriately asked "Did Democratic Leadership Try to Buy a House Seat with a $25 Billion Nuclear Bailout?" Regarding the July 1st House approval of nuclear loan guarantees, but rejection of safeguarding teachers' paychecks, FOE stated "Nuke Industry Bullies Students, Demands Lunch Money." We appreciate their insightful communications on these mind boggling nuclear power industry money grabs at taxpayers' pocket books, aided and abetted by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Senate has not taken up this $25 billion in nuclear loan guarantees, nor the $9 billion in nuclear loan guarantees passed on the House floor on July 1st as part of the emergency war funding bill. Thus, calls to U.S. Senators urging they block any new nuclear loan guarantees would be valuable right now. The Capitol Switchboard can patch you through: (202) 224-3121.

Also, the full House Appropriations Committee, and the full House of Representatives, have not yet approved the $25 billion in new nuclear loan guarantees -- so now is the time to continue calling your U.S. Representative at the number above, and urge that they strip the nuclear loan guarantees out of the Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations act! 

Wednesday
Jul142010

Urgent alert: act now to block $25 billion MORE in nuclear loan guarantees on FY2011 Energy and Water Appropriations bill!

Call your U.S. Representative as soon as possible via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Urge them to do all they can to block $25 billion in additional nuclear power loan guarantees scheduled to be voted on by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water tomorrow, Thursday, July 15th at 2pm.

Thanks to everyone who, over the past several weeks, responded to our numerous action alerts and contacted their U.S. Representative to "declare independence from a nuclear industry bailout" by urging opposition to the $9 billion in new nuclear loan guarantees snuck onto the Fiscal Year 2010 emergency supplemental spending bill (a bill primarily intended to provide additional funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as disaster relief). Unfortunately, the House passed the measure late at night on Thursday, July 1st -- ironically, at the 11th hour, as they were rushing to leave town for the 4th of July congressional recess! This happened despite an outcry from national environmental as well as taxpayer groups, and opposition expressed by nine Members of the House -- led by U.S. Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD) -- to the nuclear power industry money grab. This $9 billion represents an "advance" into FY2010 of a part of the $34 billion increase in the nuclear power loan guarantee funding requested by the Obama administration earlier this year. The U.S. Senate has yet to act on the $9 billion "advance" proposal (so call both your U.S. Senators via the Capitol Switchboard and urge that they block it!).

The big stink we raised about that $9 billion "advance" may have led House Appropriations Committee leaders to decide not to include the additional $25 billion in nuclear loan guarantees requested by the Obama administration in the FY2011 Energy and Water Appropriations bill unveiled in late June. But pro-nuclear power Democrats on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee -- namely Chet Edwards (D-TX), Chaka Fatta (D-PA), and Marion Berry (D-AR) -- made a stink of their own, leading to the postponement of the bill's mark up session in late June. A coalition of environmental groups urged House Appropriators at that time to strip the $25 billion in nuclear loan guarantees from the bill. (Luminant has proposed building new reactors in Edwards' district; Fattah represents Philadelphia, a hometown to Exelon, the largest nuclear utility in the U.S., which hopes to build new reactors; Berry is from the host state to the "Arkansas Nuclear One" twin reactors, owned by Entergy, the second biggest nuclear utility in the U.S., which hopes to build numerous new reactors in the Southeast).

But now the FY2011 Energy and Water Appropriations bill is back on the front burner, and unfortunately does contain the $25 billion in nuclear loan guarantees. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water is scheduled to meet on Thursday, July 14 at 2pm Eastern time to vote on the FY2011 spending bill, including this major increase in nuclear loan guarantees. A dozen national environmental groups wrote House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (D-WI) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) today, urging the $25 billion in nuclear loan guarantees be removed from the bill.

Please call your U.S. Representative right away via the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Urge them to block this pre-emptive bailout to the already heavily subsidized and filthy rich nuclear power industry. If your Member serves on this subcommittee, it is especially vital that you call them. If your Member serves on the full House Appropriations Committee, urge them to weigh in with their colleagues on the subcommittee. And if your Member does not sit on the Appropriations Committee, urge them to protect the American taxpayer by weighing in with their colleagues who do serve on the committee.

You can also track down your House Member's DC fax number to fax in a handwritten letter, or their website to submit a webform or email, via the Library of Congress website. But be sure to act right away!

In February, President Obama himself announced the awarding of $8.3 billion in nuclear loan guarantees for new reactors at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia. This leaves another $10.2 billion in new reactor loan guarantee funding at the Dept. of Energy, likely poised to be awarded to the new French Areva "Evolutionary Power Reactor" proposed at Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant in Maryland. In addition, in May the Energy Secretary awarded $2 billion in loan guarantees for a new Areva uranium enrichment facility targeted at Idaho. DOE has committed another $2 billion towards a new uranium enrichment facility proposed by U.S. Enrichment Corp. in Portsmouth, Ohio. This initial $22.5 billion in nuclear loan guarantees was originally appropriated at the end of 2007.

The additional $9 billion approved by the House two weeks ago would likely go towards new reactors at the South Texas Project. The added $25 billion now proposed could go towards yet more new reactors targeted at Summer nuclear power plant in South Carolina -- new reactors that Friends of the Earths' South Carolina organizer Tom Clements has helped lead opposition against. None of these new reactor designs have yet received final design certification from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, nor construction and operating licenses. In fact, numerous serious design flaws have been documented with the new reactor proposals, as the price tags continue to skyrocket. The Congressional Budget Office has put the financial risk of a default on loan repayment, leaving taxpayers holding the bag, at over 50%. Just two days ago, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that the Dept. of Energy loan guarantee program is still flawed, and has inappropriately supported nuclear power over renewables and efficiency. The risks of large-scale radiological releases remain to be seen.

Wednesday
Jul072010

U.S. House approves $9 billion in additional new reactor loan guarantees

Thank you to everyone who, for the past several weeks, has acted on our alerts to contact your U.S. Representative to urge that they block the $9 billion in added new atomic reactor loan guarantees snuck onto the Fiscal Year 2010 Supplemental Appropriations bill, a war funding and disaster relief bill. Unfortunately, late at night on July 1st, as the House was rushing to leave for its Independence Day holiday recess, it passed the bill, containing these new atomic reactor loan guarantees. The Declaration of Independence itself holds that when government becomes inimical to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it is the right, indeed the duty, of U.S. citizens to either alter or abolish that government. The insatiable greed of the nuclear power industry, repeatedly fed by the Congress and White House at taxpayer expense, requires all of us to stand up and make clear that enough is enough! Check to see if your Representative voted in favor of this bill, and if they did, ask them why they would vote in favor of transferring $9 billion of financial risk for new reactors onto the backs of U.S. taxpayers. Call your U.S. Representative via the Capitol Switchboard, (202) 224-3121.

Wednesday
Jul072010

Analyses reveal tens to hundreds of billions in taxpayer-funded subsidies and giveaways for nuclear industry proposed in Senate bills

A recent analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that the subsidies, tax breaks, etc. in the Kerry-Lieberman "American Power Act" (APA) and the Bingaman "American Clean Energy Leadership Act" (ACELA) proposed in the U.S. Senate could amount to a nearly $150 billion taxpayer giveaway to the over 50 year old, already heavily subsidized nuclear power industry. Another recent analysis of the Kerry-Lieberman APA, commissioned by Friends of the Earth and conducted by Doug Koplow of Earth Track, shows that the proposed tax incentives for new reactors alone could benefit the nuclear power industry by over $57 billion at taxpayer expense. As these bills could still reach the Senate floor yet this month, it is urgent that concerned citizens contact both their U.S. Senators as soon as possible to urge that they block any further subsidies for the nuclear power industry. Call your U.S. Senators via the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Given the short time frame, write your Senators via their webforms, or fax them a hand-written letter. Better yet, write a letter to the editor or opinion-editorial to your local newspapers, decrying any further taxpayer largesse for the atomic industry. And best of all, work with a coalition of concerned taxpayers and environmental groups in your state to request an in-person meeting with your Senators' staff, or even the Senators themselves, as soon as possible. Contact Kevin Kamps at Beyond Nuclear (kevin@beyondnuclear.org or (301) 270-2209 ext. 1) for help with any of these ideas. Finally, you can also sign Beyond Nuclear's "ActNow!" petition, and pass word of it on to everyone you know, and urge them to do the same!

Wednesday
Jun302010

NRC licensing board ruling keeps Yucca "illusion of a solution" alive, for now

A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Atomic Safety and Licensing Board has ruled that the U.S. Department of Energy cannot withdraw its application for a construction and operating license at the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nevada national repository for high-level radioactive waste. The ASLB ruled that "Unless Congress directs otherwise, D.O.E. may not single-handedly derail the legislated decision-making process." The ruling contradicts President Barack Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu's policy decision that Yucca Mountain is no longer an option for radioactive waste disposal. In February, Chu moved to withdraw the license application from the NRC proceeding, and also zeroed out DOE's budget request for the Yucca Mountain Project for Fiscal Year 2011. The five NRC Commissioners may now review the licensing board's ruling, and either uphold or reverse it. Please phone the White House comment line at (202) 456-1111, email it via its webform (http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact), or send a handwritten letter via fax (202-456-2461) or post (The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500). Thank President Obama for cancelling the Yucca Mountain dumpsite. Urge him to stand strong and make sure the dump is dead. For more information on the geologic unsuitability of Yucca Mountain, as well as the environmental injustice of targeting sacred Western Shoshone Indian treaty land in Nevada for radioactive waste dumping, see Beyond Nuclear's Yucca website section, as well as NIRS's Yucca website section. A vast "repository" of information about the Yucca Mountain dump, and the struggle to stop it, can also be found at the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Project's website. Incredibly, despite them having missed the deadline by several years to apply to become parties in the Yucca licensing proceeding, the ASLB ruling has also allowed several pro-dump parties, such as the States of Washington and South Carolina, to now join the proceeding as intervening parties opposing DOE's license application withdrawal.