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May 15, 2005

Nuclear Power as Corporate Welfare

There's a bit of emerging hype around some environmentalists expressing guarded support for expanding nuclear power as a solution to fight global warming. But most environmental groups still oppose it and corporations are demanding government subsidies to pursue it:

Officials of electric company officials and those of companies that design and build reactors have said recently that without substantial government help, the costs of winning regulatory approval and building nuclear plants would be dauntingly high for investors.

The proposals that Senator McCain is considering would provide a 50-50 cost-sharing arrangement, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies, to gain federal certification for three new designs for nuclear plants.

But these proposed subsidies are chicken feed compared to the 1957 Price-Anderson Act, which limits the insurance liability of nuclear reactors in case of a meltdown. Yep, if there's a catastrophic accident, the taxpayer is stuck with the bill.

My view is that nuclear might be worth exploring, but if private industry thinks it's too dangerous to open a reactor without government-subsidized insurance, I'm sure as hell not going to bet on it. The day the nuclear industry agrees that Price-Anderson is not needed is the day I'll believe the technology is safe enough.

Posted by Nathan at May 15, 2005 08:04 AM