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.



"NRG Might Exit Nuclear Project"

The Wall Street Journal reports that NRG Energy, based in New Jersey, may pull the plug on its involvement in the South Texas Project nuclear power plant's proposal to build two additional reactors of the General Electric-Hitachi "Advanced Boiling Water Reactor" (ABWR) design at the site which already hosts two operating reactors (pictured at the left). What makes this news all the more remarkable is the fact that the U.S. Department of Energy had previously selected the South Texas Project proposal as one of the top four applications in the entire country for new reactor loan guarantees. As reported by Greg Harman in a three part series entitled "Nukes of Hazard," as well as additional coverage in the San Antonio Current and the San Antonio Express News, the South Texas Project new reactor proposal has been coming apart at the seams for several months now. DOE seems all too ready to risk many billions in taxpayer funding on new reactors resting on financial -- not to mention safety -- foundations built on sand.


Taxpayer groups urge President Obama not to expand nuclear loan guarantees

The National Taxpayers Union and Taxpayers for Common Sense have joined with the George C. Marshall Institute and the the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center to urge President Obama and his heads of the Departments of Energy and Treasury as well as the Office of Management and Budget to not expand the nuclear power loan guarantee program, given the large risk for taxpayers this would represent. Taxpayers for Common Sense has also published a backgrounder on how the "Top Nuclear Loan Guarantee Contenders [are] in Financial Shambles," revealing that the first $18.5 billion in nuclear loan guarantees already approved in 2007 could themselves risk taxpayers holding the bag for defaulted loan repayments, further driving home the point that the nuclear power loan guarantee program should not be expanded. The Union of Concerned Scientists has also spoken out against this massive proposed transfer of new reactor financial risks onto taxpayers, as has Environment America -- its new report Generating Failure: How Building Nuclear Power Plants Would Set America Back in the Race Against Global Warming documents that efficiency and renewables will solve the climate crisis affordably, while new atomic reactors would be an expensive dead end.


Beyond Nuclear press statement on DOE call for nuclear loan guarantee expansion and announcement of radioactive waste panel

Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear's watchdog on radioactive waste and nuclear power subsidies, issued a press statement in response to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu's proposal to more than double the federal nuclear loan guarantee program from $20.5 billion to $54.5 billion, as well as his announcement on the membership of his long-awaited "blue ribbon commission" on high-level radioactive waste management. Barack Obama's Presidential Memorandum about the radioactive waste panel has a very telling title: "Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future". As reflected in the introductory language, it seems the Obama administration sees the unsolved, nearly 70-year-old (1942-2010) radioactive waste dilemma not as a mounting threat to public safety, health, and the environment, but more as a pesky public relations impediment impediment to the industry's coveted, will-o-the-wisp "nuclear renaissance." President Obama writes: "Expanding our Nation's capacity to generate clean nuclear energy is crucial to our ability to combat climate change, enhance energy security, and increase economic prosperity. My Administration is undertaking substantial steps to expand the safe, secure, and responsible use of nuclear energy. These efforts are critical to accomplishing many of my Administration's most significant goals." In terms of dirty, dangerous, and expensive nuclear power and radioactive waste, this is not change we can believe in. Regarding expanding nuclear loan guarantees, the National Taxpayers Union has blogged that this could easily turn into a ten billion dollar boondoggle. Consumer advocate and Green Party/independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, along with a coalition of national environmental groups including Beyond Nuclear, have written Energy Secretary Chu requesting a meeting to discuss energy policy in response to these developments of the past few days.


Nuclear power and the bottomless bank

Roger Witherspoon, writing in E! Magazine, examines the exorbitant costs of new reactors and how new expansion could shift both the risks and the financial burden onto taxpayers. He concludes with this gem of a quote about the nuclear industry from Ellen Vancko of the Union of Concerned Scientists: " If they can eliminate the public and tie the hands of the regulators and get the taxpayers to pick up the bill, they should be able to move along quite nicely." 


Energy Secretary Chu vows to "accelerate" nuclear loan guarantees, while affirming Yucca dump's cancellation

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, at a briefing on the Department of Energy's priorities for 2010, admitted that finalizing the first round of $18.5 billion in taxpayer-backed nuclear loan guarantees for financing new atomic reactors has proven "more complicated" than he originally thought it would be. Chu assured that the first nuclear loan guarantees would be issued "soon," despite the fact that DOE's top pick candidates are plagued with problems: the partners behind the proposed South Texas Project "Advanced Boiling Water Reactors" are embroiled in a $32 billion internecine legal dispute; the AP1000s planned at Vogtle GA and Summer SC have a major safety related design flaw, as does the Areva "Evolutionary Power Reactor" targeted at Calvert Cliffs MD. On a brighter note, Chu affirmed that "Yucca Mountain is off the table," and added that his blue ribbon commission, established to study alternatives to Yucca, will not be charged with identifying a new centralized geologic repository to take its place. This raises the specter, however, that dirty, dangerous, and expensive reprocessing may be pushed as the latest "illusion of a solution" to the radioactive waste dilemma.