The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to vote on loan guarantees for three new nuclear power plants.
These guarantees have been tacked on to emergency spending provisions for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The three reactors have prompted strong opposition from people living near the sites. Two are proposed for South Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico. One is proposed for Calvert Cliffs, Maryland, just forty miles from our nation’s capital.
As shown by the Nuclear Information & Resource Service (NIRS.ORG), Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR.org), Beyond Nuclear (BeyondNuclear.org), Taxpayers for Common Sense and many more environmental and taxpayer organizations, there are serious financial, licensing, ecological, health, safety and other unresolved issues facing all of these projects.
And this is all happening as the horror in the Gulf of Mexico rages on without apparent end.
If the Deepwater Horizon has taught us anything, it might be that official limits on corporate liability are a sure sign of a technology being overstretched.
The limit for British Petroleum on this well was set at $75 million. The technology being used was supposedly state-of-the-art, inspected and approved by the government.
Yet the damage already done has vastly exceeded that preliminary limit. Ultimately, it is incalculable.
The limit set on these new nuclear plants—and all others now proposed or operating in the United States—is currently $11 billion. Like Deepwater Horizon (as with Chernobyl and Three Mile Island) they would undoubtedly be state of the art.
But a Deepwater Horizon-scale accident at any of these reactors would rapidly exceed the $11 billion limit.
Indeed, we cannot begin to conceive of the loss of life, or the irreversible ecological damage, that could be done by a reactor disaster in the United States.
It is no accident that after more than a half-century, private insurers will not step forward to accept liability for a such a catastrophe.
These loan guarantees are also a sure sign that private investors won’t fund these plants without the taxpayers on the hook to pick up the real bill.
Nuclear Power harms our attempts to solve the global climate crisis.
Dangerous radioactive leaks and serious structural problems now plague Vermont Yankee, Davis-Besse, Indian Point and many other elderly reactors, including the two now operating at South Texas and the two more in operation at Calvert Cliffs.
Massive delays and skyrocketing overruns have struck the "new generation" French reactor being built in Finland, a design now being proposed for Maryland’s Calvert Cliffs site.
Projected costs here have jumped by factors of 3, 4 and more even before proposed reactors have been licensed for construction!
These guarantees are being rammed ahead without a full public hearing. They do not belong on a military appropriations bill. And there is certainly no emergency about them.
Indeed, all attention now needs to be focussed on the terrible crisis in the Gulf of Mexico.
All available funds for America’s energy future must go to renewable and efficiency technologies that will end all use of fossil and nuclear power.
We cannot afford more Deepwater Horizons, radioactive or otherwise.
DEB KATZ is Executive Director of the Citizens Awareness Network.