The nuclear industry is all atwitter (in the ancient sense of the word) at the possibility that an American utility may soon receive permission to build the first new nuclear plants in more than 30 years.
These plants may get built, but their construction is not a sign of a real “nuclear renaissance.” Private investors remain as uninterested in investing in nuclear power as they have been for decades, frightened away by the massive cost overruns that caused them to stop funding new nuclear plants in the late 1970s, well before the accident at Three Mile Island . (It’s all too common for nuclear promoters to cite TMI as the cause of the collapse of the nuclear industry. But the collapse was already well underway before the accident. For the industry, pointing to the accident as the turning point is actually a way for the industry to hide the economic collapse that soaring construction costs had already caused.)
So why is the giant utility Southern Company preparing to build two more plants (Vogtle 3 and Vogtle 4) next to two operating nuclear plants, Vogtle 1 and Vogtle 2? (The dangers of clustering nuclear plants closely together is one of the lessons from last year’s meltdowns at Fukushima that the American nuclear industry and its regulators are ignoring. Communities with existing nuclear plants are much less resistant to the construction of additional plants, making siting a much easier process than building on a new site.)
The answer to Southern Co.’s decision is simple: $8.3 billion in taxpayer money, in the form of federal loan guarantees created through the Energy Policy Act of 2005. These loan guarantees are only the latest form of nuclear socialism.
To read more about the nuclear industry’s failure to wean itself from federal subsidies for more than 60 years, check out these two excerpts from Nukespeak’s Chapter 23, “The Industry That Couldn’t Learn,” which are available on the Alternet news site and in the latest issue of the Canadian online journal Coldtype.