Here’s A Good One: Nuclear Reactor Subsidies/Cheaper to Give Power Away?

New Report to Outline Billions in Subsidies As Industry Seeks New Handouts From Congress

Source: Union of Concerned Scientists with permission

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a report a while back detailing the full range of subsidies that have benefitted the commercial nuclear power industry in the United States over the last 50 years. The report found that subsidies for the entire nuclear fuel cycle — from uranium mining to long-term waste storage — have often exceeded the average market price of the power produced. In other words, if the government had purchased power on the open market and given it away for free, it would have been less costly than subsidizing nuclear power plant construction and operation.

Pending and proposed subsidies for new nuclear reactors would shift even more costs and risks from the industry to taxpayers and ratepayers. The president’s new budget proposal would provide an additional $36 billion in taxpayer-backed federal loan guarantees to underwrite the construction of new reactors. That would nearly triple the amount of loan guarantees already available to the industry.

The report, “Nuclear Power: Still Not Viable Without Subsidies,” found that more than 30 subsidies have supported every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining to long-term waste storage. Added together, these subsidies often have exceeded the average market price of the power produced.

A Clean Energy Bank Must Have Clear and Effective Limits.
If Congress creates a new federal financing entity called the Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA) to promote the domestic development and deployment of clean energy technologies, then it must include adequate taxpayer protections that would limit the overall size of the fund as well as the amount of credit support that could go to any one technology.

Congress should not exempt CEDA from the Federal Credit Reform Act (FCRA), which would allow the fund to provide potentially unlimited loan guarantees to large, well-capitalized entities that are able to pay their estimated subsidy costs up front. Congress should also require CEDA to prioritize financial support for technologies that will reduce the most global warming emissions per dollar invested. These provisions modifications are necessary to reduce the overall risk of default to taxpayers and mitigate negative impacts on the competitiveness of more economic and environmentally acceptable solutions.