The Senate energy bill passed earlier this year includes a highly objectionable provision sought by the nuclear power industry that seeks to provide taxpayer guarantees of repayment on a potential $50-$100 billion in loans to finance the construction of new nuclear power plants. The proposed "loan guarantees" would protect future investors in the debt obligations of new plants (which can cost $3-5 billion apiece) by ensuring that federal taxpayers would repay the loans if the new nuclear power projects go bust, as many of them did 25 years ago during the first big wave of nuclear reactor construction.
The Senate provision would greatly increase the number of reactors eligible to obtain such loan guarantees, and strip congressional appropriations committees of their obligation under current law to set annual limits on the Secretary of Energy's authority to issue new guarantees, thereby allowing the secretary at his own discretion to obligate future taxpayers to the potential repayment of billions in bad nuclear debts.
Even the Bush administration "strongly opposes" the proposal, noting that the new loan guarantee program "would remove appropriate controls over the size of the program and significantly increase potential taxpayer liability." It also would defeat the original intent of the loan guarantees, which was to spur deployment of "innovative" low-carbon technologies, and instead tilt the energy technology playing field in favor of nuclear power at the expense of truly sustainable renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind power, advanced biofuels and other low-carbon options.
Whatever nuclear power's role in our energy future turns out to be, it should be a function of improved reactor performance, improved safety and security, improved plant economics, and a technically credible pathway for long-term nuclear waste isolation - and not the result of a greedy industry power play that seeks to rig the revival of a stagnant nuclear power industry at the expense of truly sustainable energy alternatives.
Senators and representatives will decide the fate of this blatantly over-reaching special interest provision during ongoing negotiations to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the energy bill.
Tell Congress to reject massive loan guarantees for the nuclear industry. Take action now at: http://www.nrdconline.org/campaign/nrdcaction_110707