Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My debate against taxpayer subsidies for nuclear reactors.



THE BALTIMORE SUN reported that Rep. Steny Hoyer was tickled pink because taxpayers were going to cough up subsidies for a third nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs in Calvert County, Maryland. [See below.]  I criticized Hoyer in a letter to THE SUN, which was printed. [See below] Norman Meadow responded with a letter stating I was inaccurate and misleading. [See below].  Probably the best part of his letter was this point: “One of the primary reasons that financing for new reactors is difficult to obtain is that capricious actions on the part of anti-nuclear activists can stop a construction project after billions have been spent, but before any electricity is produced.” Finally, I submitted a response to THE SUN, just below, which has not been printed.  As an anti-nuclear activist, I am obliged to confront this dangerous rip-off





Submitted July 11, 2010

Letters to the Editor


Dear friend:

Norman Meadow accused me of being inaccurate and misleading when I wrote to challenge any taxpayer subsidies for a nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs.  His claim of inaccuracy relates to my observation that insurance companies are reluctant to provide coverage for a nuclear power plant.   He then cites the Price-Anderson Act as proof that an insurance consortium will cover reactors.

But he did not state the actual name of the law which forces companies to insure this dangerous energy source.  It is the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act, passed in 1957 to partially indemnify companies against liability claims arising from accidents while still ensuring compensation coverage for the public. The law was passed as investors were unwilling to accept the risks related to the production of nuclear energy.  And it is a partial indemnity with the taxpayers expected to cover the costs of the accident over a threshold.

He blames the difficulty of financing nuclear reactors “on the part of anti-nuclear activists.”  Any unbiased observer knows the inherent dangers of a nuclear power plant is the real reason investors stay away.  Just say Chernobyl or Three Mile Island.  Recently both reactors shut down at Calvert Cliffs, and the cause is still under investigation.

He makes another unsubstantiated claim: “Putative cost overruns are ghosts from the past . . .” Actually the much-delayed Finnish Olkiluoto 3 nuclear reactor remains unfinished and billions of dollars over budget.  Anyone with a concern for the taxpayers and ratepayers would be against nuclear power and in favor of renewable sources of energy.   Of course, Meadow would claim that the reactor construction will create jobs. I still argue that more jobs would be created if the government would get behind creating incentives for a renewable energy revolution.


Finally, he claims to have solved the problem of nuclear waste storage.  Not true.  The only real solution is to stop creating nuclear waste.  If Steny Hoyer wants a third reactor in Maryland, he should convince the “private sector” to build it. 


In peace,

Max Obuszewski

A member of the Baltimore City Green Party


Hoyer is right on Calvert Cliffs

11:49 AM EDT, July 8, 2010

Max Obuszewski is both inaccurate and misleading in his complaints about Rep. Steny H. Hoyer's support for the new Calvert Cliffs reactor ("Readers Respond," July 6).

It is untrue that "the insurance companies refuse to issue policies for nuclear power plants." There is a consortium of insurance companies, the American Nuclear Insurers, which provides the insurance mandated by the Price-Anderson Act, which requires the owner of each reactor to carry $110 million of insurance to cover the clean-up and liability costs of an accident at any other reactor in the U.S. (if a company owns multiple reactors, it must carry that multiple of $110 million). This insurance program fully paid the costs associated with the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. Price-Anderson is often erroneously called a federal subsidy to the nuclear power industry, without noting that the first $11 billion-plus in costs (from the insurance on 104 reactors) would be borne by the industry before any federal money is expended.

One of the primary reasons that financing for new reactors is difficult to obtain is that capricious actions on the part of anti-nuclear activists can stop a construction project after billions have been spent, but before any electricity is produced. This has happened several times, and is among the most important reasons for the loan guarantees. Federal loan guarantees are also available for renewables, which, by the way, also seem to need them.

Putative cost overruns are ghosts from the past, when each new reactor was of an almost unique design, so that experience already obtained in reactor construction was wasted. The industry has long abandoned this old, inefficient policy; all the new, large reactors now being planned will use one of only a few designs approved for safety by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Arguing cost overruns is a ploy used by anti-nuclear activists without any evidence except returning to the past.

Building the number of new reactors that this country needs will create many, many new jobs–several years of skilled construction jobs, and numerous permanent, high paying jobs.

The "waste problem" has a safe, effective solution, which is interim storage in strong, reinforced concrete structures, followed by reprocessing. This is too complicated a subject to be described in a letter to the editor, but much information can be found on the web. Suffice it to say that a strong opponent of the Yucca Mountain plan, Sen. Harry Reid (in a letter to Newsweek in December, 2008), as well as the Health Physics Society have both endorsed this method.

Rep. Hoyer is doing the right thing by supporting the loan guarantee for the reactor.

Norman Meadow, Baltimore

No more subsidies for nuclear energy

6:06 PM EDT, July 6, 2010

It was rather sad to read that Rep. Steny H. Hoyer is shilling for Constellation Energy: ("Calvert Cliffs first in line for loan guarantee, Hoyer says," July 2). Hoyer should be promoting renewable energy sources instead of admitting that nuclear energy can't survive economically without taxpayer subsidies.

How can anyone support nuclear power today? The banks won't finance a reactor and the insurance companies refuse to issue policies for nuclear power plants. The technology is too dangerous, and no state wants to be the repository for nuclear wastes. Taxpayers and ratepayers, be prepared, as building a third nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs will include massive cost overruns.

The latest jobs figures were a disappointment, but that can be solved by the launch of a nationwide clean energy project. Millions of jobs would be created to build and install solar panels, wind turbines and a new electricity grid. The USA could become the No. 1 country for green energy.

Let us hope that Calvert County does not have to experience a tragic nuclear accident. It is bad enough that the county is suffering from a significant nuclear waste problem. I advocate that all supporters of nuclear energy should take home a cask of radioactive wastes, and Rep. Hoyer should be first in line.

Max Obuszewski, Baltimore,0,773855.story

Hoyer: Calvert Cliffs first in line for nuclear loan guarantee

Guarantee called 'essential milestone' for Constellation-EDF joint venture

By Paul West, The Baltimore Sun

9:26 PM EDT, July 1, 2010

Constellation Energy Group's joint venture with a French company to build a nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs is now "first in line" for a federal loan guarantee, according to an influential lawmaker from Maryland.

Democratic Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the House majority leader, said in an interview Thursday that he has been informed by senior administration officials that the Calvert Cliffs project is further along in the loan-guarantee process than competing projects in Texas and South Carolina.

That's potentially significant because, at the moment, the Department of Energy has only enough loan authority to offer one project a federal guarantee.

Hoyer, whose Southern Maryland district includes Calvert Cliffs, site of two existing reactors on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, said company officials were informed about two weeks ago that their application is nearly ready to be reviewed by the credit board that makes loan guarantee recommendations to the energy secretary.

He emphasized that the Maryland project still has not received final approval for a loan guarantee, expected to be in the $7 billion to $8 billion range. Hoyer said he had been in touch with top officials at the White House and the Department of Energy on the issue.

"I have been pushing very hard to get an approval of loan guarantees," he said. "And we're making progress."

Hoyer said timing was important because the project also has a commitment for financial support from COFACE, the French export credit agency, in the form of almost $2.9 billion in debt financing. Company officials have said that once they get a conditional U.S. loan guarantee, they would have about two years to work on completing the financing arrangements and gaining approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is not expected before 2012.

A company spokeswoman said a U.S. loan guarantee would be an "essential milestone" for the proposed project. Kelly Biemer of UniStar Nuclear Energy, the joint venture between Constellation and √Člectricite de France, said the company hopes to receive a conditional loan guarantee commitment "very soon."

Comments by Constellation executives during a conference call with financial analysts in April led some investors to conclude that the company's loan guarantee application had already been approved. That apparent misinterpretation caused the price of the company's stock to drop, which analysts at the time attributed to a belief that the relatively low price of electric power does not justify the risk of building a new nuclear plant.

President Barack Obama has made increased nuclear power an important element of his energy strategy. Nuclear plants currently generate about one-fifth of the electricity used in the United States.

Earlier this year, during a visit to Maryland, Obama announced the first conditional loan guarantee for a new nuclear project. It went to a joint venture that plans to add two nuclear units to a plant in Georgia.

Under the federal program, the U.S. government agrees to repay the loans for nuclear plant construction if a company defaults on the debt.

The Department of Energy has already obligated more than $10 billion of the $18.5 billion in loan guarantee authority for 2010. Obama has requested an additional $35.5 billion in his 2011 budget and is asking Congress to advance $9 billion immediately, which would allow more than one new project to gain loan guarantee approval.

The House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on additional nuclear loan guarantee funding Thursday evening as part of a war supplemental measure. The Senate would need to act before the administration could use the expanded authority.

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