The British newspaper The Guardian ran an op ed today by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, calling for elimination of government subsidies for nuclear power. Sanders and Alexander write:
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!
Sanders points out something telling from his recent Senate experience:
“… as secretary of energy Steven Chu confirmed at a recent Senate hearing, without federal liability insurance and loan guarantees, no one would ever build a new nuclear plant….”
Here’s a link to the article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/apr/13/nuclear-industry-us-welfare?newsfeed=true