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Fri Apr 13, 2012, 04:36 PM

Bernie Sanders: Stop the Nuclear Industry Welfare Program

Stop the nuclear industry welfare programme
After 60 years, the taxpayer should not continue to subsidise multibillion-dollar corporations in the nuclear energy sector

Bernie Sanders and Ryan Alexander
guardian.co.uk, Friday 13 April 2012

The US is facing a $15 trillion national debt, and there is no shortage of opinions about how to move toward deficit reduction in the federal budget. One topic you will not hear discussed very often on Capitol Hill is the idea of ending one of the oldest American welfare programmes – the extraordinary amount of corporate welfare going to the nuclear energy industry.

Many in Congress talk of getting "big government off the back of private industry". Here's an industry we'd like to get off the backs of the taxpayers.

As, respectively, a senator who is the longest-serving independent in Congress and the president of an independent and non-partisan budget watchdog organisation, we do not necessarily agree on everything when it comes to energy and budget policy in the US. But one thing we strongly agree on is the need to end wasteful subsidies that prop up the nuclear industry. After 60 years, this industry should not require continued and massive corporate welfare. It is time for the nuclear power industry to stand on its own two feet.

Nuclear welfare started with research and development. According to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, since 1948 the federal government has spent more than $95bn (in 2011 dollars) on nuclear energy research and development (R&D). That is more than four times the amount spent on solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, biofuels, and hydropower combined. But federal R&D was not enough; the industry also wanted federal liability insurance too, which it got back in 1957 with the Price-Anderson Act. This federal liability insurance programme for nuclear plants was meant to be temporary, but Congress repeatedly extended it, most recently through 2025. Price-Anderson puts taxpayers on the hook for losses that exceed $12. 6bn if there is a nuclear plant disaster. When government estimates show the cost for such a disaster could reach $720bn in property damage alone, that's one sweetheart deal for the nuclear industry! .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/apr/13/nuclear-industry-us-welfare

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Arrow 5 replies Author Time Post
Reply Bernie Sanders: Stop the Nuclear Industry Welfare Program (Original post)
marmar Apr 2012 OP
TheWraith Apr 2012 #1
JDPriestly Apr 2012 #2
DCKit Apr 2012 #3
kristopher Apr 2012 #4
bananas Apr 2012 #5

Response to marmar (Original post)

Fri Apr 13, 2012, 04:44 PM

1. Uh, the subsidies for nuclear are a lot less than those for wind and solar.

Assuming of course that you're not deliberately conflating military research dollars and civilian subsidies.

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Response to TheWraith (Reply #1)

Fri Apr 13, 2012, 05:41 PM

2. And wind and solar are a lot safer than nuclear.

The waste from wind and solar is not so difficult and costly to deal with either.

The real costs of nuclear energy will not be known for a long time. Some of that stuff will be "hot" way into the future. It will costs lives, damage farmlands and water. Nuclear energy is not worth subsidizing.

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Response to TheWraith (Reply #1)

Fri Apr 13, 2012, 06:06 PM

3. Honestly, I don't see any difference.


Unless, of course, you have a list of the peace dividends of all the military dollars spend on nuclear research.

Otherwise, it's just money down the hole.

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Response to TheWraith (Reply #1)

Fri Apr 13, 2012, 06:48 PM

4. Uh, no they are not.

You KNOW that you are not telling the truth. Do we really need to go through the whole rigamarole of showing that bullshit claim to be bullshit yet again.

Not counting any military subsidies the value of those received by the nuclear industry often exceed the value of the electricity they have produced.

Conspicuously absent from industry press releases and briefing memos touting nucle- ar power’s potential as a solution to global warming is any mention of the industry’s long and expensive history of taxpayer subsidies and excessive charges to utility ratepayers. These subsidies not only enabled the nation’s existing reactors to be built in the first place, but have also supported their operation for decades.

The industry and its allies are now pressuring all levels of government for large new subsidies to support the construction and operation of a new generation of reactors and fuel-cycle facilities. The substantial political support the industry has attracted thus far rests largely on an uncritical acceptance of the industry’s economic claims and an incomplete understanding of the subsidies that made—and continue to make—the existing nuclear fleet possible.

Such blind acceptance is an unwarranted, expensive leap of faith that could set back more cost-effective efforts to combat climate change. A fair comparison of the available options for reducing heat-trapping carbon emissions while generating electricity requires consideration not only of the private costs of building plants and their associated infrastructure but also of the public subsidies given to the industry. Moreover, nuclear power brings with it important economic, waste disposal, safety, and security risks unique among low-carbon energy sources. Shifting these risks and their associated costs onto the public is the major goal of the new subsidies sought by the industry (just as it was in the past), and by not incorporating these costs into its estimates, the industry presents a skewed economic picture of nuclear power’s value com- pared with other low-carbon power sources.

This report catalogues in one place and for the first time the full range of subsidies that benefit the nuclear power sector. The findings are striking: since its inception more than 50 years ago, the nuclear power industry has benefited—and continues to benefit—from a vast array of preferential government subsidies. Indeed, as Figure ES-1 (p. 2) shows, subsidies to the nuclear fuel cycle have often exceeded the value of the power produced. This means that buying power on the open market and giving it away for free would have been less costly than subsidizing the construction and operation of nuclear power plants. Subsidies to new reactors are on a similar path...

Still Not Viable without Subsidies
Douglas Koplow for the Union of Concerned Scientists 2011


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