The so-called "nuclear renaissance" is finding few friends among state lawmakers in the United States. The nuclear power industry has been shut out across the board in 2009 in its efforts in all six states -- ranging across the nation from Kentucky to Minnesota to Hawaii -- where it sought to overturn what are either explicit or effectively bans on construction of new reactors, according to the Washington based Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS). Efforts to overturn bans also have failed to advance in Illinois and West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Beyond failing to reverse a single state-level ban on new reactors, the industry also suffered a wide range of major defeats, including an effort to repeal a ban on "Construction Work in Progress" (CWIP) payments that would have been imposed on Missouri ratepayers to finance a new nuclear power plant, which was then promptly mothballed. Industry efforts to get nuclear declared "renewable" by the states of Indiana and Arizona also failed to achieve results. Also going nowhere is a California bill to lift the state's pioneering law banning new reactors until a high-level waste dump is in place. That follows a 2008 California statewide referendum drive with the same focus that failed for lack of sufficient signatures to get it on the ballot.
Michael Mariotte, executive director, NIRS, said: "While the nuclear power industry and a few members of Congress claim the U.S. is on the verge of a nuclear power resurgence, the industry looks more like a critical patient struggling to get by on life support out in the real world beyond the Beltway. No one seriously expects the industry to go away. But the truth is that things will be even tougher for their state lobbyists in 2010 now that the freeze on Yucca Mountain has taken long-term waste disposal off the table and also in the wake of new evidence of runaway construction costs that make nuclear power even more of a boondoggle."
Dave Kraft, director, Nuclear Energy Information Service, Chicago, IL., said: "Authorizing construction of new nuclear reactors without first constructing a radioactive waste disposal facility is like authorizing construction of a new Sear's Tower without bathrooms. Neither makes sense; both threaten public health and safety." Jennifer Nordstrom, Carbon-Free Nuclear-Free coordinator, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Madison, WI., said: "Telling states to build new nuclear plants to combat global warming is like telling a patient to smoke to lose weight: There are too many other serious downsides that cannot be ignored. Fortunately, it is both technically and economically feasible to go both carbon-free and nuclear-free by 2050. Here in Wisconsin, we have a carbon-free, nuclear-free coalition in support of Wisconsin's current law on nuclear power, and a 100 percent renewable Wisconsin."
Commenting on the defeat of an industry-sought CWIP repeal in the Missouri Legislature this year, Mark Haim, chair, Missourians for Safe Energy, Columbia, MO., said: "New nuclear plants are far too risky and expensive to attract investor funding. Utilities will only build them if they can transfer the risk to the taxpayers or their ratepayers. Here in Missouri AmerenUE attempted to repeal a voter-enacted state law that bans Construction Work in Progress charges. Their goal was to get the ratepayers to assume the risks. When our legislators heard from consumer, senior, low-income and industrial groups all opposing CWIP, the CWIP repeal went nowhere. Once Ameren realized they couldn't get CWIP, they announced that they were abandoning efforts to build a new nuclear reactor. The pattern is clear, investors find nuclear too risky and utilities will only go down the nuclear path if their customers or the taxpayers underwrite the project."
According to NIRS, the nuclear industry's 2009 defeats in 10 or more state capitols -- including all six efforts to overturn bans on new reactors (in Minnesota, West-Virginia, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky) -- were offset by only one win. Georgia state lawmakers approved CWIP, empowering a subsidiary of the Atlanta-based Southern Co. to collect US$2 billion (Euro 1.37 billion) from its customers before a single watt of power is produced from two planned nuclear reactors. Outside of the South, CWIP bail-outs for the industry have made little headway to date.
Source: Press release, 27 August 2009
Contact: NIRS Washington, or Leslie Anderson