America's budget crisis has the world economy at the brink. Social Security, Medicare, aid for needy children, environmental protection and much more are being chopped.
Yet Congress and the White House may still want to use our money to fund atomic power.
Specifically, $36 billion in loan guarantees may still be on the table for building new nukes. Millions more are slated for "small modular reactors" and other atomic boondoggles.
- More US energy is now generated by renewables than nuclear power,according to the latest Energy Information Administration report, and the balance is continuing to shift to green sources.
- Solar cells are now cheaper and faster to install than new nuclear, and will soon be cheaper than coal, according to General Electric.
- After a half-century, US atomic power cannot attract private investment for new reactors, cannot obtain sufficient insurance against a major disaster and cannot deal with its wastes.
- At least one Congressional study shows the likelihood of default on reactor loan guarantees to be at least 50%.
- The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's official post-Fukushima report advocates major upgrades in safety and temporary waste storage which the industry is fighting because the costs would force shut numerous aging, dangerous reactors, including nearly two-dozen virtual clones of Fukushima Unit One.
- Two reactors in Nebraska have just barely escaped major disasters due to flooding, although upstream dams still pose a significant danger.
- The only reactor now under construction in France has admitted to at least another billion dollars in cost over-runs and new delays that will push its projected opening until to at least five years after the original target date.
- France's new nuke under construction in Finland is also billions over budget and years behind schedule.
- Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Sweden have committed to phasing out all reactors and converting to renewables.
- A major new study in Japan has shown atomic power to be the highest-cost source of electricity.
- Nearly three-quarters of Japan's reactors are now shut, and all could be down by next summer.
- Reactors make global warming worse, and this summer's devastating heat waves have escalated their ecological impact, forcing ill-timed shutdowns.
- The owners of Georgia's Vogtle project, with $8.33 billion in federal guarantees, are fighting to make sure cost overruns are paid by consumers, not the company.
- Despite losing a major court decision and fierce public opposition, Entergy has decided to buy more fuel for the Vermont Yankee reactor, raising the stakes in a legal and political showdown with major national implications.
Given the economic failure of atomic power, it's likely no new reactors will be built here without these giveaways.
Key to that campaign was NukeFree.org, founded by Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and Graham Nash. With MoveOn.org, Greenpeace, Nuclear Information & Resource Service, BeyondNuclear, Physicians for Social Responsibility and other national and regional groups, they delivered 120,000 signatures to Congress and sponsored a lobby day that helped shrink the guarantees to $18.5 billion.
Now Raitt, Browne, Nash, John Hall, David Crosby, Kitaro and others will be part of a MUSE2 concert at Shoreline Amphitheatre south of San Francisco on August 7. The all-day show will benefit Japanese disaster victims and recall the hugely successful 1979 Musicians United for Safe Energy "No Nukes" Concerts that rocked New York City after the accident at Three Mile Island.
MUSE2 and the stop-the-guarantees campaign aim to finish the job of burying an ever more unsustainable atomic industry.
Today the guarantees are missing from House Appropriations bill, but could re-surface in the Senate. Some believe the turmoil around the budget will preclude the Senate from doing an appropriations bill, and that the guarantees might surface in a Continuing Resolution. "For the guarantees to resurface, some pro-nuclear Senator will have to try to slip them in," says Michael Mariotte of NIRS. "But we'll be watching."
And a fully empowered national movement could be in good position to kill those guarantees and the unwanted future of US nuclear power along with them.
Harvey Wasserman edits http://NukeFree.org and is author of SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN POWERED EARTH. He helped co-found Musicians United for Safe Energy.