The Costs of Having and Not Having Nuclear Energy

Thursday, January 18, 2007

One important reason that alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar power, account for a fraction of the energy produced in the United States is that nuclear power has received most of the public subsidies ["In Global Energy Rush, Nuclear Gets a Resurgence," front page, Jan. 6]. From 1947 to 1999, the nuclear industry was given more than $115 billion in direct U.S. taxpayer subsidies, while solar and wind together got a mere $5.7 billion.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorizes the nuclear industry an additional $12 billion in subsidies and tax breaks. Yet the credit-rating agency Standard & Poor's reported last January that these subsidies may not be sufficient to preserve the credit rating of a utility that commits to building a new reactor.

European experience shows why. The reactor that the French government-owned company Areva is building in Finland is the same design that the U.S. utility Constellation Energy is considering building at Calvert Cliffs in Maryland.

Plant construction in Finland, which was started in April 2005, is already 18 months behind schedule, and construction problems cost Areva $922 million in lost income during 2006.


Legislative Director, Energy Program

Public Citizen

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