Bush’s Push for Nuclear Power Would Unfairly Burden Taxpayers Even More

April 27, 2005

Bush’s Push for Nuclear Power Would Unfairly Burden Taxpayers Even More

Statement of Wenonah Hauter, Director, Public Citizen’s Energy Program

President Bush’s relentless push for nuclear power is spiraling out of control. Today, Bush is expected to deliver a speech encouraging the use of domestic energy sources. Among his five new proposals, he plans to offer the nuclear industry yet another break; this time in the form of federal “risk insurance,” which would protect the nuclear industry in the event that the regulatory process slows down its plans for building new nuclear reactors.

Taxpayers already have provided the nuclear industry tens of billions in subsidies since its inception 50 years ago. The just-passed energy bill by the U.S. House of Representatives provides an additional $6.1 billion in subsidies and tax breaks to the nuclear industry. Moreover, the nuclear industry is the only industry to have its liability artificially limited – even in cases of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. This is done through the Price-Anderson Act, a law that caps the industry’s liability in the event of a catastrophic accident or attack and calls for the government – that is, the taxpayers – to pay for cleanup above the cap. Apparently, this isn’t enough. The industry is demanding cradle-to-grave subsidies.

The nuclear industry now wants to be 100 percent guaranteed that its license applications will be quickly accepted by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the agency responsible for issuing nuclear reactor licenses. Rushing these licenses is foolhardy. It will shortchange the public of its opportunity to participate in the process and could jeopardize public safety.

As the leader of the so-called fiscal conservative party in this country, Bush is making a gigantic miscalculation by offering even more money to the nuclear industry at the expense of taxpayers. If the nuclear industry thought that building new reactors was profitable, then it would foot the bill to build new reactors. Instead, the nuclear industry wants the public to take all the risks, while it reaps the profits. Nuclear power is risky – and those risks should be borne by the industry, not the public.

Nuclear power is not the answer to our energy problems. It’s expensive and dangerous. Too many of our taxpayer dollars have already been wasted on this polluting energy source. Enough is enough. 

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