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E-M:/ Rep. Upton Seeks $50 Billion Subsidy for Nuclear Reactors



News from Beyond Nuclear
For Immediate Release: August 6, 2007
Contact: Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear, (240) 462-3216
Rep. Upton Seeks Taxpayer-Backed Loans for New Nuclear Reactors
Atomic Industry Wants Over $50 Billion in Next Two Years
 
Takoma Park, MD ? U.S. Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI), who represents the 6th District, is helping lead a congressional effort that could deliver over $50 billion of taxpayer money to shore up the already heavily-subsidized nuclear power industry.
 
Upton, a long-time nuclear industry booster, helped retain a one-sentence provision in the U.S. House of Representatives? Energy Bill passed on Saturday that would ensure that new nuclear reactors remain eligible for federal loan guarantees. In June, he attempted to secure 50% of all energy-related federal loan guarantees for new atomic reactors, but was blocked in committee. If his earlier amendment had passed, it would have locked in $5.5 billion in federal loan guarantees for new reactors. The amount of funding sought by the nuclear industry has increased ten-fold since then. Upton's district includes three nuclear reactors ? two at the Cook plant in Bridgman, and the third at the Palisades plant in Covert.
 
"It's high time for Congressman Upton to work on behalf of the health, safety, and pocketbook of southwest Michigan's residents and taxpayers, rather than the nuclear power industry's bottomless greed," said Kalamazoo native Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Watchdog at Beyond Nuclear.
 
The U.S. House Energy Bill, H.R. 3221, including its federal loan guarantee Section 9202, will now go to a conference committee with the U.S. Senate. Critics hope to block the federal loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors in conference committee.
 
"Upton's efforts would effectively 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. "These proposed billion dollar giveaways would be to an industry that has already enjoyed lavish subsidies at the expense of U.S. taxpayers and ratepayers 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 management costs, and much more."
 
The nuclear power industry?s trade association is seeking more than $50 billion in federal loan guarantees over the next two years alone to launch the construction of around 30 new reactors across the country, including one proposed by DTE Energy at its Fermi nuclear power plant near Monroe. A U.S. Senate energy bill, passed in June, contains provision that would end congressional oversight on energy loan guarantee appropriations, allowing the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to provide unlimited amounts of federal loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors. If passed into law, this provision could burden U.S. taxpayers with the liability for billions -- or even tens of billions -- of dollars should the reactor construction projects default on their loans.
 
?This move - if it becomes law ? is tantamount to handing the radically pro-nuclear Bush administration the key to the piggybank,? Kamps said.

Federal loan guarantees for new energy plants were approved in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. In the lead up to that Act, the U.S. Congressional Budget Office warned that the risk of new nuclear power plant construction projects defaulting on their loans is ?very high ? well above 50 percent.? Federal loan guarantees would make American taxpayers liable for those defaulted loan repayments, rather than the atomic projects? private investors from Wall Street or banks.
 
Upton?s nuclear boosterism has not come unrewarded. 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 industry companies that would build and fuel them, would directly benefit from such federal loan guarantees.
 
"Yet again, Upton seems to be attempting to pay back his corporate campaign contributors, namely the nuclear power industry, at the expense of U.S. taxpayers," said Kamps.
 
In April, Upton cheered the 20-year license extension for the 40-year old Palisades reactor in his district, now owned and operated by Entergy Nuclear headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi. Palisades has the most embrittled reactor pressure vessel in the United States.
 
?Nuclear money talks, and Upton is listening,? Kamps said. ?He has reversed the promise he made in person to concerned constituents at a 1996 Kalamazoo meeting where he agreed that the Palisades reactor should operate only until 2007, the expiration of its original operating license. Now he?s pushing for 60 years, and even wants to build new atomic reactors.?
 
"We urge Congressman Upton to stop promoting the dead end that is nuclear power, 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."
 
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Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic. The Beyond Nuclear team works with diverse partners and allies to provide the public, government officials, and the media with the critical information necessary to move humanity toward a world beyond nuclear.
For more information on the concerned citizen efforts to shut down Palisades, see http://www.nirs.org/reactorwatch/licensing/palisades.htm
 
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www.beyondnuclear.org