$12.6B into the Death Spiral

The nuclear power industry got a huge boost today from YOU via the US Dept. of Energy. DOE is proposing $12.6 Billion (yes, B) in new nuclear “guaranteed loans” for existing and new nuclear reactors. Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects is pegged for one-third that amount at $4 billion. There’s $8 billion for “Advanced Fossil Energy Projects.”  Only transportation got more: $16 B for “Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing.”

There is a lot of data on nuclear subsidies, from the Price-Anderson insurance boondoggle to states’ milking ratepayers for over-budget construction work in progress.  Back in 2011 the Union of Concerned Scientists released this report: Nuclear Power: Still Not Viable Without Subsidies. Ironically, the report was released on March 11, the morning Japan was hit by earthquakes and tsunami, just as the Fukushima nuclear disasters began.

In the three years since, it has become clear that the nuclear industry is in a “death spiral” due to competition from natural gas, solar and wind, plus the resulting push for decentralized power; 5 US reactors closing; media stories about the financial and human impacts of Fukushima; the release of more fact-based reports (see July 2014: Three of Four Nukes under construction globally are over budget & behind schedule ); and increased citizen activism at reactors  around the world.

Jeremy Rifkin, a world-renowned economist, summed up the “5 Reasons nuclear power is a dead end business model” succinctly to a meeting of asset managers recently.The conservative Forbes magazine, in an article entitled “Another Way to Look at the Utility Death Spiral,” concluded “Adding 19 trillion kilowatt hours to the world’s energy diet would take about 1,610 new nuclear power plants… There are 430 nuclear plants now and individual plants cost $7 billion or more.  … The alternative is to try alternatives.”

Yet financial reality bounces off the teflon armor of the US government. Obama is beholden to the nuclear industry which financed much of his political career. Former Exelon staff landed seats on the White House staff as soon as Obama was elected.  Exelon is now struggling to keep some of its 11 nuclear reactors in Illinois financially viable, and is holding that state’s energy policy hostage. Keep our nukes running with $580 of taxpayer money, or we’ll shut down & leave the state holding the bag for carbon emissions under the new EPA rules. A Chicago consumer advocate said, “If that’s going to be their ask, they’ll be getting all the profits without any of the risk. That would be an awfully hard hit to consumers.”

And lets not forget the massive media campaign by the industry, led by the Nuclear Energy Institute. NEI is a donor to ALEC, Koch brothers lobbying group. Last year, ALEC peddled 70 bills blocking alternative energy development in 37 states, and was successful in 16. Nuclear is promoting itself as the answer to climate change and pushing against renewables on a state by state basis, as outlined in this 2010 investigative report.

Money beats facts in Washington, DC. If nuclear power is clean power in Obama’s “all of the above” strategy, we need an “all of the above” strategy to fight back.

We might take as a starting point today post by Harvey Wasserman: Four Things We Need to Do to Win the Climate Fight

#1: In this movement, “what can I do?” always has a ready answer: fight the polluter next door. Pick one and shut it down!

YES! Let’s mark a big CHECK next to #1 ! We have strength and power and skills. Let’s take them to his next 3:

#2: Corporate dominance: Only way to take it on that has worked in the past: mass civil disobedience.

#3: For a green world, we need to include these issues: social justice, corporate personhood, net neutrality, election protection, and peace.

#4: Being an activist is a leap of faith which comes with rewards and costs, and so we can “listen to our gut instincts, accept what we’re good at doing, heed our natural passions, respect our comfort zones, heal in concert with our fellow citizen who are struggling to do the same.”

One activist reaching out to another, and another, and another, in peace,

Leslie Sullivan Sachs


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