President Obama’s First Nuclear Loan Guarantee Package is a High Risk Gamble on New Reactors

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Environment America Research & Policy Center

With an approaching June 18 deadline for Southern Company to decide whether to accept $8.33 billion in federal loan guarantees, Environment America released a new report that exposes  risks to taxpayers, ratepayers and the environment According to The Nuclear Bailout: President Obama’s high risk gamble on new reactors undermines the fight against global warming, these first-ever nuclear loan guarantees to build two more reactors at the Vogtle nuclear site in Georgia are unnecessary and would undermine efforts to solve global warming.  

“When it comes to global warming, time and money are of the essence and nuclear power will fail America on both accounts,” said Anna Aurilio, Director of the Washington, D.C. Office of Environment America.  “With government dollars more precious than ever, nuclear power is a dirty and foolish investment that will set us back in the race against global warming.”

The Environment America report found that these reactors will be costly to local Georgia ratepayers and potentially all U.S. taxpayers.  Georgia Power customers will be paying $1.6 billion through higher electricity rates over the next six years to help finance the reactor construction. By 2017, the average Georgia Power customer will be paying an additional $10 per month to support the project.  The report also finds that a default on these loans would likely leave American taxpayers on the hook for $11 billion; which amounts to $95 from every American household.  

“Georgia ratepayers will essentially pay a nuclear tax for President Obama’s high risk gamble on new reactors,” said Aurilio from Environment America.  “What’s worse is that down the road, U.S. taxpayers may end up footing the bill for this risky gamble,” she added.

The report warns of several safety and environmental concerns with these new reactors.  It concludes that clean and cheaper energy sources could come online much quicker.  Environment America estimates that along with the existing reactors at the site, the new reactors could withdraw 2% or more of the total water flow of the Savannah River.  Finally the group highlighted safety concerns for the new reactor design raised by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).  The NRC has informed the reactor designer that it has concerns that the reactor could not withstand severe weather including tornados and hurricanes as well as earthquakes- click here for the NRC press release.

“It is absurd to divert money from cleaner sources and to divert water from the Savannah River for risky reactors that aren’t needed,” said Aurilio.  “President Obama should withdraw the loan guarantees and focus instead on clean energy solutions like energy efficiency and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power that he called for last night.”