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US nuclear bailout could cost $280 billion

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

A new report by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) finds that a national bailout of nuclear energy patterned on the model advanced this year in New York State would cost ratepayers and taxpayers more than US$280 billion (€254 bn) by 2030.

Based on an independent analysis that over half of existing nuclear power in the US will be unprofitable by 2020, a narrower bailout would still cost US$160 billion by 2030. In addition to the enormous expense, NIRS found that one major side-effect of bailing out nuclear power on a large-scale basis would be the starving of renewable energy of needed capital.

Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Commissioner Peter Bradford, currently adjunct professor at Vermont Law School, said: "This report illustrates that the subsidies now being sought for nuclear units that are already massively subsidized may pay far too much for relatively little climate benefit. Worse still, they may slow the evolution of the electric industry to a less concentrated and more customer friendly form."

The report notes that from 2002‒2012, average operating costs for nuclear power plants rose by 50%. A significant factor in rising operating costs is the aging of the reactor fleet. The US now has the oldest fleet in the world, averaging 35.6 years, with 37% older than their original licensed lifespan of 40 years; another 37% are between 31 and 40 years old.

The report debunks claims that nuclear plants are unsubsidized or "under subsidized", listing a wide range of existing subsidies.

The report recommends, among other things, creating "proactive plans to replace or phase out nuclear, in concert with emissions reduction and renewable energy goals, and grid modernization initiatives."

NIRS has launched a petition to the next President urging the new administration to say no to a national nuclear bailout, and to end subsidies for nuclear and fossil fuels. To sign the petition please visit

The report is posted online: Tim Judson / Nuclear Information and Resource Service, November 2016, "Too Big to Bail Out: The Economic Costs of a National Nuclear Power Subsidy",

A summary of the report is posted at: