“Unbelievable” bailouts fund zombie nuke nightmares

"Burning Money," image featured on cover of The Nation magazine by Gene Case/Avening Angels, used with permission.

[Image designed by Gene Case/Avenging Angels. The image was on the cover of The Nation magazine in 2003, accompanying an article by Christian Parenti about the George W. Bush/Dick Cheney nuclear power relapse.]

In Stateline on February 12, 2024, Alex Brown published an article entitled “Federal money could supercharge state efforts to preserve nuclear power: A plant in Michigan might become the first to reopen after closing.”

The massive level of federal and state subsidization being handed over to the nuclear power industry is reflected in the giddiness of the head of the nuclear engineering department at the University of Michigan:

“You’re starting to see a lot of states transition to a position where they’re supportive of nuclear,” said Todd Allen, chair of the Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences department at the University of Michigan. “And compared to 30 years ago, the amount of federal support for nuclear is unbelievable.” (Emphasis added)

It is unbelievable, in a shocking and horrifying way. An analysis by NIRS shows the unwitting federal taxpayer largesse benefitting the nuclear power industry included in a single law, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

The Stateline article focuses on the unprecedented, outrageously expensive, and extremely high risk Palisades zombie reactor restart scheme in Michigan. Beyond Nuclear has co-led grassroots environmental resistance to this restart, as well as to Holtec’s so-called “Small Modular Reactor” (SMR) new builds scheme on the same site.

We have posted about the $3.3 billion (yes, with a B!) in federal and state bailouts for the Palisades restart, another $7.4 billion for Holtec’s SMR new builds (including at Palisades, and at its sibling, decommissioned — although still radioactively contaminated, with on-site highly radioactive waste storage — reactor site in northern Michigan, Big Rock Point), as well as more recently announced federal taxpayer and ratepayer bailouts associated with the Palisades restart, a long list still growing with time! The requested restart bailout total alone is now at around $4.5 billion, and counting! Added to the SMR new builds bailout, nearly $12 billion, or more, in federal and state taxpayer, as well as ratepayer, bailouts could be sunk, just at the Palisades site alone!

The Stateline article quoted Beyond Nuclear’s radioactive waste specialist, Kevin Kamps, at length:

…While some environmental groups have embraced the nuclear investments, others have pointed to long-standing concerns about safety issues, citing infamous accidents such as those at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. Opponents also note the long-term issue of radioactive waste storage, and in some cases assert that nuclear can stall the growth of renewables such as wind and solar.

“With the amount of money that’s gone into this [Palisades] restart scheme already, you could develop brand-new renewable energy proposals that would be online in the same time frame producing more electricity,” said Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear, an environmental nonprofit that opposes nuclear energy…

Opponents of nuclear point to the canceled projects, delays and cost overruns as proof that nuclear isn’t viable.

“This is just throwing good money after bad,” said Kamps, the anti-nuclear advocate. “We stand horrified at the actions being taken by Congress and certain state governments.”

Kamps also cited previous nuclear disasters and warned of the risks of extending aging plants…

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 mentioned above is the law under which Holtec hopes to receive a $1.5 billion nuclear loan guarantee — $500 million more than it had talked about the past few years — which is interest-free and risk-free, in that it actually need not be paid back, leaving taxpayers holding the bag. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) of 2021 is the law under which Holtec hopes to obtain $2 billion in Civil Nuclear Credits. President Joe Biden signed both bills into law. His Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, a former governor and attorney general of Michigan, is in charge of deciding where the various bailouts get dispensed. This even includes the $7.4 billion for SMR development, even though that particular funding stream was created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, as well as December 23, 2007 appropriations passed by Congress (both of which were enacted with President George W. Bush’s signature). Thus, we are horrified at the actions being taken by the Biden administration, as well.

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