'Courting Disaster': Progressives Denounce Biden Plan for Taxpayer Bailout of Nuclear Industry

The Indian Point nuclear power plant is seen from Tomkins Cove, New York on April 22, 2021. Indian Point ceased operations on April 30. (Photo: Kena Betancur/VIEWpress)

'Courting Disaster': Progressives Denounce Biden Plan for Taxpayer Bailout of Nuclear Industry

"A nuclear bailout is wrong for taxpayers, wrong for ratepayers, and wrong for the climate," said one expert.

The Biden administration is being urged Wednesday not to court "disaster" after new reporting revealed the White House is pushing for taxpayer subsidies to keep nuclear power plants afloat in its sweeping infrastructure plan.

According to Bloomberg and Reuters, the taxpayer prop-up would come in the form of "production tax credits," which already apply to renewables like wind and solar.

The PTC effort "would likely be swept into" Biden's American Jobs Plan, Reuters reported, stating that the White House "has signaled privately to lawmakers and stakeholders in recent weeks" its support for the action.

The American Jobs Plan already points broadly to support for nuclear power, stating the plan will invest in "advanced nuclear."

Writing last month at The American Prospect, Gabrielle Gurley outlined the administration's efforts at a clean energy standard (CES):

The White House has realized that finding a niche for nuclear energy is another way to bring Republicans along. (Its American Jobs Plan notes that the CES will "continue to leverage the carbon pollution-free energy provided by existing sources like nuclear and hydropower.") That said, nuclear energy is anathema in some quarters. The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster took the luster off the sector in Japan and Germany, but in the U.S., a new nuclear plant is planned for Georgia, and new, smaller nuclear plants are in the research and development stages even though they pose many of the same risks as conventional plants and cannot be brought online fast enough to make a difference. Proponents of nuclear argue that such plants can serve as a bridge fuel in the transition to renewables, at least until the solar and wind energy sectors can surmount the storage challenges posed by current levels of technology.

Among nuclear's proponents in Congress is Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va), chair of the Senate Energy Committee.

Manchin--who continues to declare his support for continued burning of fossil fuels-- asserted at a March committee hearing that "if we are serious about meeting our climate goals without sacrificing reliability, we must protect our existing [nuclear] fleet."

Such thinking, according to progressive advocacy groups, is deeply flawed because it ignores problems with nuclear such as environmentally destructive uranium mining and disasters caused by flooding or other threats. Experts also warn that any commitment to nuclear stands in the way of the advancement of truly climate-friendly energy policies and infrastructure.

In a Facebook post corresponding to Reuters' reporting, Paul Gunter, director of Beyond Nuclear's Reactor Oversight Project, called the PTC proposal "an example of nuclear power as a 'diversion' of resources from the climate crisis."

"President Biden needs to open his eyes to see the bottomless bucket he's considering pouring production tax credits into [are] economically failing and deteriorating nuclear power plants. Incentivizing and ramping up renewables, efficiency, and conservation is far more carbon reduction [and] cost effective per dollar, brings more sustainable job creation, and builds local economies," rather than "hazardous centralized atomic financial sink holes," wrote Gunter.

Lukas Ross, program manager at Friends of the Earth, concurred.

"A nuclear bailout is wrong for taxpayers, wrong for ratepayers, and wrong for the climate," Ross said in a statement.

"Paying to keep aging reactors online is courting disaster and guaranteed to slow the deployment of truly clean renewables. Congress and President Biden should not throw good money after bad," he said.

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