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E-M:/ from NIRS: Rep. Upton Seeks $5 Billion Taxpayer Subsidy for New Nuclear Reactors



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                   

June 21, 2007

Contact: Kevin Kamps, Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), (301) 270-6477 ext. 14

              Alice Hirt, Don’t Waste Michigan, (616) 335-3405


Rep. Upton Seeks $5 Billion Taxpayer Subsidy for New Nuclear Reactors

Critics Charge He’s Doing Nuclear Power Industry’s “Dirty Work”


Washington, D.C.--U.S. Congressman Fred Upton, a Republican representing Michigan’s 6th District, recently introduced an amendment to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy Bill that would lock in a full 50% of all energy-related federal loan guarantees for the construction of new nuclear reactors. If passed into law, Upton’s amendment would secure $5.5 billion or more for the nuclear power industry to construct the first new reactors in the U.S. in decades.


“It’s high time for Congressman Upton to work on behalf of the health, safety, security, environment, and pocketbook of West Michigan’s residents and taxpayers, rather than the nuclear power industry’s bottomless greed,” said Kevin Kamps of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), a Kalamazoo native.


Federal loan guarantees for the construction of new energy infrastructure were approved in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. In the lead up to that Act, the U.S. Congressional Budget Office reported that as many as half of any new nuclear power plant construction projects could be expected to default on their loans. Federal loan guarantees would make American taxpayers liable for those defaulted loan repayments.


Upton’s amendment would transfer the huge financial risks from the nuclear power industry onto the backs of hard-working American taxpayers,” said Alice Hirt of Don’t Waste Michigan in Holland. “This $5 billion giveaway would be to an industry that has already enjoyed lavish subsidies at the expense of U.S. taxpayers for the past fifty years, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars in research and development support, liability coverage in the event of  catastrophic radiation releases, high-level radioactive waste disposal costs, and much more.”


The Center for Responsive Politics reports at its website, www.opensecrets.org, that Congressman Upton received campaign contributions of $84,451 from Energy companies, and $57,751 from Electric Utilities, during the 2005 to 2006 federal election cycle alone. The nuclear utilities that would own and operate the new reactors, and the energy companies that would build and fuel them, would directly benefit from such federal loan guarantees.


“Yet again, Upton seems to be paying back his corporate campaign contributors, namely the nuclear power industry, at the expense of U.S. taxpayers,” said Kamps.


For well over a decade, Upton has been a leading House supporter for one of the nuclear power industry’s top priorities, opening a national dumpsite for high-level radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Within Rep. Upton’s district, there are two nuclear reactors at the Cook plant in Bridgman, and one reactor at the Palisades plant in Covert.


DTE Energy (formerly Detroit Edison Company) has proposed a new reactor, likely to be targeted at its Fermi nuclear power plant site in Monroe, Michigan. DTE’s Chairman and CEO, Anthony F. Earley, is also Chairman of the Board of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear power industry’s lobby arm.


            “DTE is already seeking to charge an additional hundreds of millions of dollars on Michigan ratepayers’ electricity bills in order to build its new reactor,” said Michael Keegan of Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes in Monroe, Michigan. “And if Upton gets his way, DTE could take billions more from federal taxpayers as well, all to generate yet more radioactive waste for which we have no safe solution.”


Upton is guilty of atomic hypocrisy,” said Kamps of NIRS. “While concerned citizen volunteers struggled to shut down the dangerously-decrepit Palisades reactor, Upton urged the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to rubberstamp the old reactor’s 20 year license extension. This was a reversal of his 1996 position, communicated to concerned citizens at a face-to-face meeting in Kalamazoo, that he ‘was not there’ when the decision to build  Palisades had been made, but that we should allow it to operate till the 2007 expiration of its original 40 year operating license. Now Upton wants Palisades to operate for 60 years, and even wants to build new atomic reactors.”


 “It seems that for Upton, the nuclear power industry can do no wrong,” said Terry Lodge, a Toledo attorney who challenges corporate welfare schemes. Upton has failed to protect public safety and security against failures at Palisades, and now he wants to give away billions of taxpayer dollars to help the nuclear industry build more radioactive bull’s-eyes, reactors that are vulnerable to accidents and attacks.” Lodge has served as pro bono attorney for the citizen intervention against the 20 year license extension at Palisades.


“We urge Congressman Upton to withdraw his radioactive amendment, and instead secure federal funding for safe, secure, reliable, and clean renewable sources of electricity, such as solar and wind,” said Hirt. “Michigan has abundant renewable energy resources, which along with energy efficiency measures could provide thousands of well-paid jobs in the state, while protecting public health, the environment, and the climate.”


Upton’s proposed amendment will first be considered by a U.S. House subcommittee. If passed, it would then move on to the full House Energy and Commerce Committee (headed by Michigan Congressman John Dingell), and then to the full House when it takes up the Energy Bill just after the 4th of July.


            The short text of Rep. Upton’s amendment is available upon request.


For more information on concerned citizen efforts to shut down Palisades, see http://www.nirs.org/reactorwatch/licensing/palisades.htm