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Nuclear Plants Rely on Corporate Welfare

Alex Constantine - February 6, 2014

January 23, 2014

Contrary to nuclear industry spin, Limerick Nuclear Power Plant is operating at the public’s expense. The aging, degrading Limerick facility is on life support in a corporate welfare scheme that should outrage any fiscal conservative.

The nuclear welfare scheme includes liability caps, direct payments, loan guarantees, energy subsidies and other forced public financial contributions that cover construction, high level radioactive waste storage, decommissioning, and hidden costs. A calculation of current public assistance that is used by nuclear power is 96 percent of the funding available, leaving less than 4 percent for all other forms of electrical generation.

This has hurt diversity in energy innovation and associated job creation. It has slowed the development of advances in existing technologies, inhibited green innovation, suppressed energy pollution reduction, and constrained progress in curbing global warming.

It is a myth that nuclear power doesn’t contribute to global warming. The fact is that nuclear power has the largest carbon footprint of any energy source other than fossil fuel.

The promised benefits of Limerick were all based on myths and lies. In the 1980s, PECO claimed that Limerick’s electricity would be “too cheap to meter.” However, PECO’s original estimate of $326 million actually turned into $6.8 billion. By 1997, PECO’s electric rates had skyrocketed to 55 percent above the national average.

PECO/Exelon has never even paid its fair share of property taxes on Limerick Nuclear Plant property. From 1985 to 2002 they paid zero. This unfairly over-burdened local taxpayers.

Adding insult to injury, huge decommissioning funds are required due to radioactive contamination at the Limerick site. Believe it or not ratepayers’ monthly electric bills include payments into Limerick’s decommissioning fund. And ratepayers could end up paying even more because Exelon mismanaged its portion of the fund, as reported January 18, 2012 in the Mercury story by Evan Brandt: “Limerick Nuke Plant’s Need for $100 Million May Lead to Rate Hike.”

Another deceptive myth is that Limerick is essential to producing local electricity. That’s not true. All the nuclear plants in America together produce less than 20 percent of the nation’s electricity. Limerick produces less than half of 1 percent of the nation’s electricity, which goes to the grid. Local electricity comes from all the sources providing electricity to the grid, including solar and wind.

In the beginning, electric companies were reluctant to invest in nuclear power because of the enormous risks and costs. Unable to persuade private electric companies to invest in nuclear reactors, the government stepped in providing liability protection to encourage investment.

Over the past 50 years, public subsidies and financial incentives have increased, while nuclear energy has proved ever more costly, risky, and dangerous.

In 2011, the Union of Concerned Scientists examined nuclear power’s economic impacts and policy implications - past, present, and proposed - including public risks and hidden costs. The title of its report says it all, “Nuclear Power: Still Not Viable Without Subsidies.”

Nuclear lobbyists are even trying to abolish wind credits. Ironically, Exelon generates electricity with wind power. It has received $75 million to $100 million in wind credits. In addition, Exelon has invested in a solar park in California and solar power at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Exelon has used coal. It does not serve the public’s interests for nuclear power to exert so much control over how our electricity is supplied.

Politicians need to wake up and stop this unjust, infuriating corporate nuclear welfare scheme. They must stop voting for nuclear industry subsidies and protect the public’s financial interests. More information on Limerick Nuclear Plant’s costs to the public can be found at www.acereport.org - Section #18 “Financial Injustice.”



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