has moved us closer to a green-powered Earth.
It has happened in upstate New York, where the Unistar Nuclear Energy
front group asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to delay its
application to build a reactor at Oswego, near Syracuse. Meanwhile, in
Texas, the San Antonio city council's deliberations over building two
new reactors has disintegrated into recriminations, resignations and
firings over a multi-billion-dollar price jump in projected cost
estimates, a furor that could doom reactor construction there as well.
And in Vermont, Entergy has threatened to shut its Yankee reactor if
the legislature does not approve a complex maneuver that would allow
its owners to escape certain financial liabilities.
Throughout the US, while the corporate media hypes a "renaissance" of
new nukes, facts on the ground say the opposite is happening. The
longer that trend continues, the more likely we are to win a world
powered by the Solartopian technologies that really work, including
wind, solar, geothermal, sustainable bio-fuels, increased
efficiency/conservation, and more.
The Oswego postponement stems from the successful national grassroots
campaign sparked by NukeFree.org and others dating to late 2007. When
the Bush Administration asked for $50 billion in loan guarantees to
build new reactors, a well coordinated campaign rose up, complete with
a music video from Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, K'eb Mo
and Ben Harper (www.nukefree.org).
With help from key Congressional Democrats, a wide range of
organizations and individuals rallied to get the $50 billion package
out of proposed energy legislation. Grassroots opposition has since
beaten the proposed guarantees two more times.
It is as yet unclear what new reactor funding will come from Washington
in the near future. There is still an $18.5 billion loan guarantee fund
left over from the Bush Era. But the Department of Energy has run into
serious political and procedural problems in administering the money.
It may soon announce one or more new reactor projects designated to get
the money, possibly including one in Georgia, where ratepayers have
been put on the line to underwrite construction even if the plant never
Republican proposals for virtually unlimited future loan guarantees are
now being targeted for a Climate Bill and other legislation that may or
may not make it through Congress in the coming months. Sen. John McCain
(R-AZ) and other industry supporters are pushing hard for major federal
financing. The Obama Administration has made some pro-nuclear
rumblings, but remains elusive in terms of firm commitments.
Because the reactor industry cannot get private financing for new
reactors, all the pro-nuke rhetoric in the world will mean nothing
without federal subsidies. After 50 years, the industry doesn't have
Wall Street's backing. Nor can it get private liability insurance in
case of a major disaster. And it still lacks a solution for its
radioactive waste problem.
Most critically of all, the longer new construction is delayed the less
competitive the industry becomes. Cost estimates are literally all over
the map, with $7-9 billion for a 1000 megawatt reactor being current
used as a benchmark. But even that is not expected to last. The Oswego
project involves a design financed by the French government. This
latest setback indicates even they may not be as bullish on reactors as
they hype would indicate. As Michael Mariotte of the Nuclear
Information & Resource Service puts it, "Unistar's postponement is
just another indicator that new reactors will not be built unless
American taxpayers are forced to take the financial risk."
Thus as the dust settles from the failures in Copenhagen, the US might
look to the conference's host country. In the 1970s a powerful Green
movement stopped the Danes from going nuclear. Instead, as even the New
York Times's pro-nuclear Thomas Friedman has recently acknowledged,
Denmark successfully focussed on wind power. Today the wind industry is
one of Denmakr's top employers, and is a major source of both clean
green energy and significant financial profit.
Throughout the world, the cost of renewables is plummeting while
reactor prices soar. So if America's thus-far successful grassroots
campaign against massive federal loan guarantees and other nuclear
bailouts can continue, we just might find ourselves on a parallel path
to a green-powered Earth.