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Energy Insecurity: Corporations Receive Special Treatment to Prop Up Dangerous Nuclear Power Without Safety Commitments

Nov. 5, 2001

Energy Insecurity: Corporations Receive Special Treatment to Prop Up Dangerous Nuclear Power Without Safety Commitments

WASHINGTON, DC.? Public Citizen today joins a broad coalition of consumer and environmental groups denouncing energy policies that subsidize nuclear power without securing any commitments from the industry to improve plant security. The inability to secure nuclear power from terrorist attacks places millions of Americans needlessly at risk. Public Citizen calls for an end to the billions of dollars in subsidies that prop up the industry and demands immediate regulatory improvements to protect Americans from the threat of nuclear catastrophe.

“Federal regulators, consumer groups and even the nuclear power industry acknowledge that nuclear power plants are not prepared to withstand a terrorist attack from land, sea or air,” said Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen president. “In a decade of testing for mock land-based assaults, the security provided by the nuclear industry failed to stop intruders 47 percent of the time.”

Recent efforts to beef up security at the nation?s 103 operating nuclear reactors, including ringing plants with National Guard troops, cannot guarantee the reactors? safety because nuclear reactors are not designed to withstand the impact of a commercial jetliner. Public Citizen urges the establishment of a more comprehensive regulatory framework to force the nuclear power industry to figure out how to deal with a terrorist assault. Public Citizen also calls for an immediate moratorium on the approval of new power plants until the security of Americans can be guaranteed.

“The risk of a Chernobyl-style catastrophe at an American nuclear power plant is real,” said Tyson Slocum, research director for Public Citizen?s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “At a minimum, the regulations covering safety at nuclear power plants must be upgraded in response to Sept. 11. But instead of asking the nuclear power industry to improve safety, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has continued relicensing procedures for reactors without holding these plants to higher standards in exchange for allowing them to operate for another 20 years.”

Congress, too, has sacrificed public safety by continuing to promote subsidies for the nuclear power industry. Reauthorization of the Price Anderson Act ? legislation that forces taxpayers to cover most of the estimated costs of a nuclear power catastrophe and allows the nuclear power industry to save an estimated $3 billion annually on insurance premiums ? appears certain.

Although the U.S. House of Representatives passed its energy bill in August, the Senate has been embroiled in a procedural battle to rush a vote on the House legislation. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) gaining concessions to force a vote soon by attaching the entire House bill as an amendment to the Defense authorization bill. The House legislation provides billions of dollars in taxpayer giveaways to the nuclear industry, including millions of dollars to recruit students to work in the commercial nuclear industry and millions more to subsidize every kilowatt hour of electricity generated by nuclear power.

“Billions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies to the nuclear power industry won?t buy Americans the safety and security they demand,” Slocum said.