Barack Obama�s 2012 budget marks a major escalation in the
nuclear war against a green-powered future, whose advocates are already
Amidst massive budget cuts for social and environmental
programs, Obama wants $36 billion in loan guarantees for a reactor industry
that cannot secure sufficient private �marketplace� financing for new
In the past decade the reactor industry has spent at least $640 million
lobbying for these massive advance bailouts. But since 2007, safe energy
advocates have succeeded in keeping them out of the federal budget.
The $36 billion Obama wants to underwrite new reactor
construction would be added to $18.5 billion set aside under George W. Bush. In
2010 Obama allocated $8.33 billion of that for two reactors under construction
in Georgia. The Continuing Resolution for funding the government until the end
of the 2011 fiscal year slashes all loan guarantees for energy except those for
nuclear reactors and uranium enrichment.
Obama�s proposed 2012 budget does contain some additional
money for renewables. But it also allocates $97 million for Small Modular
Reactors (SMRs) which are untested and unproven. SMRs are vulnerable to public
health, radioactive waste and potential terror problems that parallel those
plaguing the larger light water reactors that have proven so economically and ecologically
disastrous throughout the
Industry allies in Congress are joining the White House in
trying to classify both large and small reactors as �clean energy.� Though
cosmetic, the designation would allow reactor backers to fit atomic power under
the rubric of long-term goals for cleaning up America�s hugely polluting energy
Price tags for proposed new reactors have recently doubled
and tripled. Projected at $2�3 billion as few as three years ago, proposed
projects in Florida, Texas and elsewhere have soared to $10 billion and more.
The Congressional Budget Office has warned that the failure
rate for reactor loan guarantees could well exceed 50 percent. The economic history
of atomic power has been catastrophic, with the previous generation of reactors
coming in on average around 200 percent over original cost projections.
Reactors now under construction in Finland and France have soared to billions
of dollars over budget and are years behind schedule.
In Georgia, where rate-payers are being forced to fund
reactor construction even if the plant never opens, critics
fear costs at the Vogtle site are certain to soar. New projects proposed
for Texas, Maryland and South Carolina are also plagued by financial doubts.
At the same time, major breakthroughs in solar cell
technology have prompted a wide range
of studies showing deployment of green energy to be cheaper than new atomic
power, and growing moreso.
But while slashing social programs, Obama seems determined
to use taxpayer money to fund a radioactive technology that grows ever more
expensive and uncompetitive.
Can the green power movement again stop the new loan
guarantees, as it�s done since 2007?
�This year, with more public attention on government
spending, it seems even unlikelier that Congress will approve it,� says Michael
Mariotte, Executive Director of the Nuclear Information & Resource Service.
For a green-powered future, says Mariotte, �no funding for
new reactors is acceptable.�
Harvey Wasserman edits www.NukeFree.org and is author of THE LAST ENERGY WAR (Seven
Stories Press). Originally published by freepress.org.