Transcript of radio commentary that aired June 11, 2003 on KUNM public radio 89.9 fm in Albuquerque

By Arjun Makhijani

For over two decades the nuclear power establishment has been in the bad books of Wall Street. Bankers just don’t seem to like nukes and don’t want to finance them. No nuclear power plants have been ordered in the United States since 1978. Wall Street really soured on these financial lemons in the early 1980s when a nuclear power project caused the largest bond default in electric utility history.

If the bankers won’t give them money, apparently the government will. The nuclear power boys are knocking at the door of government, asking for subsidies.

The current proposal is for taxpayers to guarantee half the financing for nukes. The Congressional Budget Office thinks it’s risky. Here’s what it said: “CBO considers the risk of default on such a loan guarantee to be very high – well above 50 percent.” It concluded that if loan guarantee is provided to a nuclear power plant, “we expect it would financially default soon after beginning operations….” Taxpayers could lose billions.

The first time around, they promised us nuclear power that would “too cheap to meter.” That dirt-cheap electricity, the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Lewis Strauss, promised in 1954, would give us an age of plenty, including fast and safe nuclear-powered air travel! Fortunately we’ve been saved from that.

But all of the government’s own studies and those of industry done in that same time showed that nuclear power would be far from cheap. Here is what the research director of General Electric said in 1950:

It is safe to say…that atomic power is not the means by which man will for the first time emancipate himself economically, whatever that may mean; or forever throw off his mantle of toil, whatever that may mean. Loud guffaws could be heard from some of the laboratories working on this problem if anyone should ….refer to the atom as the means for throwing off man’s mantle of toil. It is certainly not that!

Taxpayers are still paying the insurance bill for the first set of nuclear power plants that were built on the heels of false government promises. No private insurance company will underwrite them, because the damages from a severe accident, which the government has acknowledged is possible, could run into hundreds of billions of dollars.

The government should be requiring the nuclear power industry to pay the full cost of operations and eliminate present subsidies, instead of dreaming up new ones. And it should require safer, hardened storage of waste. If you want to know more about the deceptive promises that led to the present problems, take a look at the book that Scott Saleska and I wrote, entitled Nuclear Power Deception. You can find a summary and information on the website of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, This is Arjun Makhijani.

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