Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama’s Atomic Solyndra

by HARVEY WASSERMAN

The future of nuclear power now hangs on a single decision by President Obama—and us.

His Office of Management and Budget could cave to the unsustainable demands of reactor builders who cannot handle the standard terms of a loan agreement.

Or he could defend basic financial procedures and stand up for the future of the American economy.

You can help make this decision, which will come soon.

It’s about a proposed $8.33 billion nuke power loan guarantee package for two reactors being built at Georgia’s Vogtle.   Obama anointed it last year for the Southern Company, parent to Georgia Power.  Two other reactors sporadically operate there.  Southern just ravaged the new construction side of the site, stripping virtually all vegetation.

It’s also stripped Georgia ratepayers of ever-more millions of dollars, soon to become billions.  This project is in the Peach State for its law forcing the public to pay for reactor construction in advance.  When the project fails, or the reactors melt, the public still must pay.  A taste of what’s coming has emerged in shocking defects in poured concrete at the site which will cost millions to correct and months of delay on a project whose construction has barely begun.

Nonetheless, Southern runs virtually no financial risk.  It actually has an interest in never finishing.  Florida is now in turmoil, trying to rid itself of a similar Construction Work in Progress law.

Worldwide estimated reactor costs have jumped from $3-5 billion each a few short years ago to $10 billion or more, and rising.

Uranium prices are set to soar as the supply of Russian weapons-based fuel is about done.  And renewables have long since outstripped atomic energy as being cheaper, faster to build, cleaner, safer, more reliable and open to community ownership.

There are virtually no private investors willing to back new reactor construction.  There are no private insurers willing to take the risk on operating reactors.  There is no place to store the radioactive wastes they generate.

Operating reactors in Vermont, New York, California and elsewhere now face ferocious public uprisings to get them shut.

They are being joined by Governors, US Senators and entire legislatures.  Peter Shumlin, Governor of Vermont, has appeared at a major public rally to shut Yankee.  The legislature long ago voted (26-4) the same way.  Shumlin was joined by US Senator Bernie Sanders, who has issued a stunning denunciation of the loan guarantees.  US Senator Ron Wyden of Orgeon has published a serious warning about the on-going dangers of Fukushima, which he recently visited.

Once the public kills one of these elderly reactors, a tsunami of shutdowns among the 104 currently licensed in the US will follow.

Germany and much of the rest of Europe have abandoned the technology.  Bulgaria has just scrapped plans for two proposed generators.  Major banking institutions have warned potential investors in Britain’s planned reactors that if they proceed, they will lose their financial standing.  Mexico has also said it won’t build new nukes.

In Asia, only one of Japan’s 54 licensed reactors now operates, and it may soon shut.  Huge demonstrations and hunger strikes are raging against a proposed project at Koodankulam, India.  The Philippines says it won’t build any reactors at all.  China, the last bastion of any apparent large-scale interest in multiple nukes, seems to be wavering, in part because of the rise of a No Nukes movement there.

Here, two reactors barely beginning construction in South Carolina are also in deep trouble.  Their builders need massive rate hikes in North Carolina to proceed, and the opposition there is fierce.

But the lynchpin is Vogtle.  The construction loan guarantee program got $18.5 billion from George W. Bush in 2005. With the industry in deepening chaos, it took until last year for a president to designate less than half that money.  For the first time in years, there is no Executive or Congressional request to put more money into the fund.

The French National Utility EDF did step forward to get funding for Maryland’s proposed Calvert Cliffs project.  But haggling over terms contributed to its demise.

Now Southern faces the same abyss.  It refuses what the mortgage community would consider a normal 20% downpayment on its taxpayer-funded loan.  Southern wants to put virtually none of its own money into the project, leaving the radioactive gamble totally to the public.

But the Office of Management and Budget is apparently demanding something more reasonable.  Because the OMB is a White House agency, Obama holds the key.  It’s our job to make him turn it in a green direction.

A short while ago, this package was considered a done deal.  But the GOP uproar over the failed $535 million loan to the solar company Solyndra changed to context.  Initiated by Bush, Republicans have made Solyndra the poster child for bad federal loans.

Vogtle involves some 15 times Solyndra’s liability.  And it’s all Obama’s.  At least three petitions are circulating against the package.

There are many ways to finally shut down what has been the most expensive technological failure in human history.  Fukushima and the killing power of radiation, the unsolved problem of radioactive waste, the campaigns against failing reactors such as Vermont Yankee, Indian Point, San Onofre and Davis-Besse—all are key.  The first weekend in May, a conference convened by the Sierra Club in Washington, DC, will weigh the various strategies.

But killing this loan guarantee package could finally kill the prospect of new reactors in the US.  The astonishing rise of Solartopian green technologies has far outstripped atomic energy in the marketplace.  Every delay deeply diminishes the possibility of building more of these profoundly uneconomic anachronisms.

In the long run, Vogtle, Summer and any other new nukes that seem to slip through in the short term will almost certainly be stopped by what has become one of the most powerful non-violent social movements in human history.

But right now, it’s up to Obama—and us.  Does he really want an atomic Solyndra on his hands?  Will we really let this happen?

Let’s relieve the President of this radioactive burden.  Let’s kill these reactors before they kill us, and take the most significant leap of all toward a green-powered Earth.

Harvey Wasserman, a co-founder of Musicians United for Safe Energy, is editing the nukefree.org web site. He is the author of SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030, is at www.solartopia.org. He can be reached at: Windhw@aol.com

 

Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at www.prn.fm

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyons
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]