Sept. 25, 2007

Application for New Nuclear Reactors in South Texas Sends U.S. Back to Failed Energy Policies of the 1970s

Statement of Tyson Slocum, Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program

NRG Energy’s request today to build two new nuclear reactors in southern Texas is déjà vu all over again. The U.S. has been down the nuclear power path – and it has proven to be expensive, polluting, dangerous and a security risk. Nothing has changed with any of these factors since utilities lost interest in nuclear power 30 years ago. Electricity companies are testing a revised licensing process only because federal politicians want to throw even more taxpayer dollars at an industry with which they have become far too cozy.

With this application, NRG Energy is attempting to be the first in line to obtain loan guarantees and other construction subsidies for nuclear power granted in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. NRG Energy is not a poor little start-up company venturing into an innovative field to address energy needs. In the past 18 months, NRG Energy has made $835 million in profit and is positioning itself to receive federal handouts that continue to prop up a mature industry that is not economically viable.

Nuclear industry heads have candidly stated that without the federal loan guarantees, the projects will come to a halt. There is no reason for U.S. taxpayers to back loans for a technology that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, has a default rate of “well above 50 percent.” NRG Energy’s proposed design for an advanced boiling water reactor should not even be eligible for loan guarantees, the purpose of which is to encourage advancement of new and innovative technology, because advanced boiling water reactors are operating in Japan, and several more are under construction in Asia. The technology isn’t that new, and it isn’t that innovative. Further, NRG is hardly deserving of taxpayer money; it paid $2 million in fines this year for falsely reporting natural gas trading information.

The proposed reactors may be headed for billions in cost overruns just as in the 1970s, especially given that the cost of steel and other construction materials are skyrocketing. Two advanced boiling water reactors were built in Japan in 1996 and 1997 at a cost of $4.21 billion and more than $3.64 billion respectively.

Public Citizen will fight these proposed reactors every step of the way. The flaws of nuclear power – excessive cost, security threats and long-lived radioactive waste – have not been solved. More nuclear reactors will only exacerbate these problems. The future of nuclear power looks a lot like the past. The first step to avoid repeating history is to stop wasting taxpayer dollars on bailing out this 20th century technology and focus on 21st century solutions that are clean, safe, and sustainable.

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