Taxpayer, Environmental Groups Sound Alarm on $6 Billion Nuclear Bailout

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Energy took another step Thursday toward spending $6 billion in taxpayer funds to prop up the nuclear industry. Green Scissors, a coalition of taxpayer and environmental advocates, submitted comments on the Civil Nuclear Credit program, a new DOE initiative created by the bipartisan infrastructure bill to subsidize economically ailing nuclear reactors. A Request for Information soliciting feedback on its implementation ends today.  

The Civil Nuclear Credit program would provide direct subsidies to financially struggling reactors if closure would result in increased greenhouse gas emissions. The Green Scissors coalition is working to ensure that the program’s design will adequately evaluate applications and disperse funding only where truly needed.

“The Department of Energy must ensure that these funds are spent prudently. This burden of responsibility is especially acute given the potential for this program to unleash negative consequences for ratepayers, taxpayers, and the climate alike,” the comment letter states. “If the best environmental outcome can be secured without spending our tax dollars, then those tax dollars should not be spent.”

Members of the Green Scissors coalition, issued the following statements:

“One of many issues with the dirty nuclear industry is that it is too expensive to solve climate change,” said Sarah Lutz, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Secretary Granholm must fully consider cheaper and cleaner energy alternatives before tying taxpayers to failing reactors.”

“The R Street Institute generally supports nuclear energy as an important component of meeting the long- and short-term energy needs of the country,” said Jonathan Bydlak, director of the think tank R Street’s Governance Program.  “However, we believe all resources should compete on the merits, not the preferences of politicians, and subsidizing failing reactors should never be part of the solution. Subsidies on all energy sources should be kept to a minimum, so that the energy market can ultimately determine the proper mix of energy production.”

“Billions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted subsidizing nuclear power plants – their fuel, their construction, their accident liabilities and operations, and now we’re being asked to subsidize their failure,” said Michael Maragos, senior policy analyst with Taxpayers for Common Sense. “This new DOE program cannot become another way to blindly siphon more money to the industry at taxpayers’ expense. At some point, policymakers have to recognize that nuclear is not a cost-effective climate solution and throwing more money at nuclear plants is bad policy.”

“The recent report from the International Panel on Climate Change rang the warning bells loud and clear: We cannot wait a moment more to act on climate,” said U.S. PIRG Environment Campaigns Director Matt Casale. “Before spending billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out nuclear facilities, the Department of Energy should ensure that we are prioritizing the fastest, most efficient and most cost effective solutions to reduce emissions. Bail outs will not solve our climate crisis.”

“There are no silver bullets to climate change,” said Lisa Frank, Environment America Washington Legislative Office Executive Director. “We need more renewable energy and we need cleaner ways to travel and to protect forests and other natural carbon sinks. Some climate solutions save money, like using less energy in our homes, and some cost money. Subsidizing aging nuclear reactors could cost taxpayers a tremendous amount of money, all without improving their safety or dealing with the toxic waste nuclear plants produce. As the Department of Energy implements its Civil Nuclear Credit Program, it must carefully scrutinize requests to avoid spending taxpayer dollars on reactors that are dirty, dangerous and don’t deliver.”

Communications contact: Kerry Skiff, 202-222-0723, [email protected]

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