Smokey Joe Barton came to Glen Rose yesterday for an apparent DogNPony PR show. Not that I blame Luminant for going to the willing media as much as possible to counteract the negative impression, dang it, that Fukushima has left in the minds of the world about nuclear power. After all, Luminant still has not gotten approval from the NRC for 2 more reactors and the bill to start paying back payments for what Energy Futures Holding bought is fixing to come due. in 2014. And EFH has had massive losses for the last 2 years, because the cost of natural gas is so cheap.
Which is why Barton’s visit was so important. Barton is the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a key committee for steering national nuclear power policy in coming years.
Luminant wants to build two next-generation reactors with the help of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., or MHI, which already builds the reactors in Japan.
In light of the crisis in Japan, the debate now is whether there are enough protections in the new design to continue the lengthy permitting process. Barton says there are.
The question isn't just about safety, although, um, I suppose Barton must have missed that the new design is untested, and, as of yet, unapproved. Let's repeat- UNCERTIFIED AS OF YET BY THE NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION.
But, Smokey Joe? At first I wondered why the man who is notorious for supporting those nasty toxic-waste-burning cement plants in Midlothian would be considered as any type of expert on clean energy. (Let's not forget that until the regulations CHANGED from what he wanted that TXI finally closed down 4 plants) He's on record as supporting polluters, letting them off the hook for penalties and against EPA regulations that would reign them in (remember this from 2005?).
But then I realized that he is once more chairman of the House Energy Committee and therefore in a position to see how he can get those dang extra nuclear reactors pushed through. This can only be done, of course, with taxpayer backed loans, because investors have been warned off for the last 2 years about how risky investing in nuclear power plants and reactors are. That only leaves sucker taxpayers who get stuck with the bill through representatives like Smokey Joe and Bill Flores (remember that Flores originally when running said he was against corporate welfare ... before he was for it.) Barton has experience with giving the taxpayer the bill for corporate wrong moves.
Now that Republicans are back in, with Barton at the helm of the energy committee, worth looking to see what the energy bill did in 2005 that affected Somervell County. Here's 2 parts I particularly want to highlight.
Subtitle A, Section 602—Extension of Indemnification Authority
Reauthorizes the Price-Anderson Act for new reactors licensed before December 31, 2025 and for Department of Energy contractors through December 31, 2025. Price-Anderson artificially limits the amount of primary insurance that nuclear operators and DOE contractors must carry and caps the liability of nuclear operators and DOE contractors in the event of a serious accident or attack, leaving taxpayers on the hook. Despite the claims that the next generation of nuclear power plants will be “inherently safe,” the industry has stated that it will not build any new plant without limited liability. For more information about Price-Anderson click here.*
Subtitle A, Section 603—Maximum Assessment
Ostensibly increases the total liability of nuclear operators in the event of an accident from $63 million to $95.8 million, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission already revised its Price-Anderson regulations to this amount on August 4, 2003. Increases the annual liability cap from $10 million to $15 million. A 1982 federally-funded study, known as CRAC-2, by Sandia National Laboratory estimated that damages from a severe nuclear accident could run as high as $314 billion – or more than $600 billion in 2004 dollars.
Who picks up the slack from that? WE DO.
If you or I decided we wanted to start a business, we'd have to get our own investors or pony up the money. In the case of Luminant, they had done a joint venture with Mitsubishi, in which the government of Japan was going to pony up some of the money. (Who knows if that will happen now?) Luminant has said repeatedly that they are not able to do these reactors WITHOUT DOE taxpayer-backed loans. Again, investors won't do it, and are being warned off such risky ventures-but not the taxpayers who need to stand up and say NO.
And those taxpayers need to realize that Smokey Joe is not the person to listen to with any kind of comfort. If you do not want to be stuck with big debt and liability, then you need to tell Congress NOW not to approve these loans.
P.S. I've seen this big PR push lately with some media coming down from the Big Cities. You would think from reading these articles or watching it on the teevee that Every Single Person in Glen Rose/Somervell County supports nuclear energy. I suppose it must Take Too Much Time to find the ones that either don't work for the plant, aren't in government with their hands out, or on the rah-rah train.