Volume 13, Issue 34 ~ August 25 - 31, 2005
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No Taxpayer Subsidies for Nuclear Power

If there’s a 2005 Chutzpah Prize, we nominate the nuclear industry.

And if Maryland and Calvert County buy into a plan to hand over $200 million in financial incentives to the industry to locate a third nuclear reactor in Calvert County, our politicians should share the 2005 Suckers Prize.

P.T. Barnum would be hooting up a storm.

Not much surprises us anymore in this era of corporate greed.

But we were stunned last week when NuStart Energy Development LLC solicited an offer from Maryland and Calvert County for up to $100 million in loan guarantees and another $100 million in tax deferrals and grants.

Rather than prosperous Maryland and growing Calvert County, we looked like rural Alabama bidding on a prison. Or a toxic waste dump.

Politicians who call themselves fiscal conservatives or profess support for free markets shouldn’t touch this deal. For one thing, we shouldn’t provide a pile of subsidies for an industry that can’t stand on its own feet.

Among other goodies, the new energy bill signed by the president two weeks ago gives the nuclear industry tax credits worth $6 billion; authorizes $2.7 billion for research and development and allocates $1.25 billion for an experimental nuclear reactor in Utah.

In addition, Congress extended a law limiting the liability of nuclear operators and putting taxpayers on the hook for cleaning up after an accident. See a common theme here?

That’s federal money, one might say. But as a wise old conservative senator from Peoria, Ill., Hudson Sours, used to remark: “It all comes from the same Jaspers.”

Which brings us back to what our investment would buy us. Even if we were oil barons with getaway yachts, we would question the wisdom of locating another nuclear reactor on a peninsula with one main road.

Nor do we believe that this industry has earned our trust by reneging on a promise to find a permanent repository for all the deadly wastes from the cores of nuclear reactors.

Instead, those spent fuel rods are stuffed in swimming pools or steel casks at Calvert Cliffs and elsewhere around the country. And the furthest toward a solution this industry has gotten is talking an Indian tribe, the Goshutes of Utah, into taking some of these materials.

By Oct. 1, NuStart says it will have waded through its offers and picked two of six locations, four of which are in the South.

Yes, we’re in competition with Alabama.

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