Nuclear Costs

Estimates for new reactor construction costs continue to sky-rocket. Conservative estimates range between $6 and $12 billion per reactor but Standard & Poor's predicts a continued rise. The nuclear power industry is lobbying for heavy federal subsidization including unlimited loan guarantees but the Congressional Budget Office predicts the risk of default will be well over 50 percent, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. Beyond Nuclear opposes taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies for the nuclear energy industry.



With hasty stroke of a pen, Bush DOE transferred billions of dollars in radioactive waste liability onto taxpayers

Beyond Nuclear, along with Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and the law firm of  Harmon, Curran, Spielberg, and Eisenberg, LLP, have broken the story that between November 4, 2008 (the day Barack Obama was elected President) and January 22, 2009 (two days after he took the Oath of Office), the George W. Bush administration’s Department of Energy (DOE) hurriedly signed new irradiated nuclear fuel contracts with utilities proposing 21 new atomic reactors. This obligates U.S. taxpayers to ultimate financial liability for breach of contract damages if DOE fails to take possession of these estimated 21,000 metric tons of high-level radioactive waste by ten years after the new reactors’ licenses terminate. This could cost taxpayers billions or even tens of billions of dollars over time. DOE signed these contracts despite the fact that it has already cost taxpayers $565 million in damages for past breached contacts involving old radioactive waste at commercial reactors, with $790 million more soon to be transferred from the U.S. Treasury to atomic utilities. In fact, DOE estimates that by 2020, taxpayers will have paid $12.3 billion in damages to nuclear utilities for waste contract breaches, while the nuclear industry itself estimates the ultimate taxpayer damage awards will top $50 billion. These new contracts will only add to that crushing burden. See the full materials from the press conference: media release, backgrounder on new waste disposal contracts (authored by Beyond Nuclear’s Kevin Kamps), Principles for Safeguarding Nuclear Waste at Reactors, and the new contracts themselves, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. You can even listen to an audio recording of the press conference. Also see Arjun Makhijani's opening statement, as well as Kevin's and attorney Diane Curran's. The news conference garnered 25 stories in the media, including a major article in Christian Science Monitor.


TIME Magazine nails new reactors' exorbitant costs and extreme financial risks for taxpayers

In Michael Grunwald's "Why Obama's Nuclear Bet Won't Pay Off," TIME Magazine nails new atomic reactors' exorbitant costs and the extreme financial risks of nuclear loan guarantees for taxpayers. However, it unfortunately and inaccurately gives a free pass to the atomic energy industry on such important issues as "emissions-free" electricity, safety risks, and the still unsolved radioactive waste crisis.


Muskogee Phoenix editorial against nuclear loan guarantees

The Muskogee Phoenix newspaper in Oklahoma has published an editorial objecting to President Obama's awarding of $8.3 billion in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees for two proposed new atomic reactors in Georgia. The editorial cites the unsolved high-level radioactive waste problem as reason enough to not build new reactors in the U.S., and urges the federal government to support wind and solar power instead.


National "Call Congress" Day of Action against nuclear loan guarantees, Wed., Feb. 24!

An environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, Friends of the Earth, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and others, has called for a National “Call Congress” Day of Action against nuclear power loan guarantees for Wed., February 24th. Please phone your two U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative via the Capitol Switchboard, (202) 224-3121, and help ring the phones off the hook all day long during business hours next Wednesday in Congress! Urge your Members of Congress to let President Obama and Energy Secretary Chu know that they are displeased that the first $18.5 billion in already-approved nuclear loan guarantees is being rushed out to unworthy applicants, increasing the already high risks that taxpayers will be left holding the bag for defaulted projects. Also urge your Members of Congress to block President Obama's Fiscal Year 2011 budget request to triple the nuclear loan guarantee program from $18.5 billion for new reactors, to $54.5 billion (and don't forgot about the $2 billion in already-approved loan guarantees for new uranium enrichment facilities!). See NIRS’s email alert as well as its website announcement of “Call Congress Day.” Also see Beyond Nuclear’s loan guarantee website for more information. And see NIRS's press release that clarifies the important point that these are not just loan guarantees, but actual loans as well being drawn from the U.S. taxpayer -- thus, they're getting us coming and going!


Beyond Nuclear denounces President Obama's decision to transfer risks for new atomic reactors onto U.S. taxpayers

President Obama himself, flanked by nuclear power industry unions such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (photo at left), today announced the awarding of an $8.3 billion, taxpayer-backed loan guarantee to Southern Nuclear Company of Georgia for its proposed twin-reactor expansion at Plant Vogtle near Augusta. Ironically, Plant Vogtle's currently operating twin reactor nuclear power plant was the poster child of cost overruns in the last generation of reactor building -- coming in at a whopping 13-fold, or over 1,000%, cost overrun. Such skyrocketing costs delivered the death blow to nuclear power plant construction in the United States, even before Three Mile Island melted down in 1979. In a follow up press conference today, Energy Secretary Steven Chu revealed his ignorance of the Congressional Budget Office's prediction that over half of new atomic reactors will default on their loan repayments. This will, of course, leave taxpayers holding the bag for many billions of dollars per failed project. Financial analysts are unconvinced that such federal largesse is sufficient to achieve the nuclear power industry's coveted "renaissance." They have even pointed out that, despite President Obama completing President Bush's unfinished favor -- at taxpayer expense -- for the nuclear power industry, it is too little, too late to achieve a nuclear power relapse in this country. Beyond Nuclear immediately issued a media release denouncing President Obama's decision. Beyond Nuclear board member Karl Grossman wrote "Obama's Change on Nuclear Power" in response to today's nuclear loan guarantee announcement. Bob Alvarez of Institute for Policy Studies responded to President Obama's pro-nuclear power, and even pro-nuclear weapons, policies with "Nukes Aren't the Answer." In fact, the environmental and taxpayer coalition opposed to nuclear power loan guarantees erupted with a "negative reaction," a flurry of fury, including from Public Citizen; PSR; Friends of the Earth; Environment America; Sierra Club; and Taxpayers for Common Sense. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader  calls President Barack Obama’s loan guarantee for nuclear power plants a "monumental mistake." Watch  Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps on Al Jazeera English interview (play the "In video" report by John Terrett in the lower right hand corner). Watch Kevin debate the Nuclear Energy Institute's top lobbyist, Alex Flint, on C-SPAN's Washington Journal from 7:45-8:30 a.m. on Wed., Feb. 17th. As the top staffer for former U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee at the time), Alex Flint played a lead role in the writing and passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which established the nuclear loan guarantee program in the first place, as well as awarded another $13 billion in federal subsidies to the nuclear power industry. In fact, as reported by Mike Stuckey of MSNBC, Alex Flint has passed through the revolving door between the nuclear power industry and Capitol Hill more than once, making himself a pretty penny in the process.