Sunday, September 7

Look What Got Slipped in the New Energy Reform Act

Congress will come back from summer recess, and immediately consider energy legislation. These bills, which would allow offshore oil drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf as a supposed response to high gasoline prices, also contain massive taxpayer subsidies for the nuclear power industry.

Introduced a month ago, the “New Energy Reform Act of 2008” has not yet been put in legislative form and still lacks a bill number. The plan is sponsored by such bipartisan pro-nuclear Senators as Republicans Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, as well as Democrats Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

The subsidies – ranging between $87 billion and $166 billion would pay for: increasing the number of Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff to expedite new reactor licensing; authorizing “risk insurance” for nuclear utilities if the startup of their new reactors is delayed for any reason; training nuclear workers; supporting the re-establishment of a U.S. industrial infrastructure for manufacturing large nuclear components such as reactor pressure vessels; and building a demonstration radioactive waste reprocessing facility. An expansion of federal loan guarantees for new reactors would leave taxpayers on the hook for up to $160 billion if nuclear utilities default on loan repayments.

A ironically named companion bill led by Republicans in the House, the “Americans for American Energy Act of 2008” (HR 6384), would: subsidize radioactive waste reprocessing; fast-track the opening of a reprocessing facility; remove congressional oversight on Yucca Mountain dumpsite spending; block consideration of radioactive waste from new reactor license proceedings; grant tax breaks to nuclear component manufacturers; fund nuclear engineering scholarships; support nuclear workforce expansion; and award cash prizes for new ideas on how to store radioactive wastes. This bill could give $120 billion of taxpayer money to the nuclear industry.

Our View: It’s ironic that massive subsidies for nuclear energy – which claims a place among climate change solutions – have been slipped into a bill promoting off-shore oil drilling. It is clear that the nuclear power industry – the most subsidized in the energy sector over the past 50 years – is less interested in climate change than in using that real crisis to carve out for itself another giant slice of the federal funding pie. This money is wasted on nuclear energy when micro-power and nega-watts are dramatically outcompeting nuclear power in the marketplace according to the Rocky Mountain Institute analysis, “The Nuclear Illusion.”

What You Can Do: Call your two U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative right away: call (202) 224-3121 to be patched through to your Congress Members. Urge them to block any legislation that would further subsidize the nuclear power industry, and to support renewable and efficiency solutions to our energy and climate crises. Organize your friends, families and co-workers. We must light up the Capitol switchboard.

(Source: Web: Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic.)

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