Nuclear Asks For Handouts

by Nelson Harvey

The issue of nuclear waste has turned many people off to nuclear power as a solution to our energy woes. But what if, in addition to dealing with that waste, taxpayers had to pay back massive loans on nuclear power plants that went bust? That’s exactly what we’ll have to do under a provision of the 2007 energy bill, whose details are currently being hashed out between the House and the Senate.

The National Resources Defense Council has launched a campaign to kill the provision, which would expand the number of nuclear plants eligibile to recieve government backed loan guarantees. These guarantees would require taxpayers to repay loans incurred by plant investors, in case something went awry during construction that prevented the plant from being built.

The story of government propping up nuclear power is not new. In fact, government support is literally the lifeline for nuclear power plants today. Under the Price-Anderson Act, first passed in 1954, the federal government agreed to insure all nuclear power plants built in the U.S. The reason? No private insurer would touch something with such a high potential cost in the event of a nuclear meltdown.

I don’t mean to entirely demonize nuclear power. From a carbon emissions perspective, it’s great stuff, and it may need to be a part of our clean energy mix going forward. If that’s the case, though, it ought to stand on it’s own two feet a bit more steadily. Compare nuclear to renewable technologies like solar and wind. Both are the beneficiaries of government subsidies, and if wind and solar are to continue growing at the explosive pace of the next few years, they may need these subsides to continue. But unlike nuclear power, these renewables don’t generate tons of radioactive waste that needs to be stored for thousands of years.

I don’t think nuclear deserves the all-out government backing that it has recieved for so long. If you agree, add your voice to the NRDC campaign.

Photo credit: Kenko

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