Thanks, Red-Staters. Now, taxpayers are going to be stuck with trillions of dollars of nuclear power plant construction bills. And of course, the profits of the nuclear plants will be shared alike as well? Right? Right? Of course the question is rhetorical. Sounds like a win-win, for the industry and the nuclear regulatory agencies, and a lose-lose for taxpayers.

From the Tribune Decades after it was written off as a costly failure, the nuclear power industry is being revived with plans for new reactors in Illinois and other states.

Utilities are considering building or restarting up to eight reactors in Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, and Idaho, as well as in Illinois.

The renewed interest is an about-face for an industry that has not had an order for a new nuclear plant in 30 years. In recent years it was almost a given that nuclear plants were too expensive to build, too difficult to operate and their radioactive waste too hot to handle.

Nuclear industry advocates and critics agree on almost nothing, but both sides say that if nuclear power is to return, a major taxpayer subsidy will be necessary. In its so-far-unsuccessful efforts to pass an energy bill, the Bush administration has proposed subsidizing construction of new plants, and some in the industry are pressing for loan guarantees of up to 80 percent of the cost of construction
..llinois has more experience with nuclear power than any other state, though much of it was bad.

Commonwealth Edison's nuclear plants spent years on a Nuclear Regulatory Commission watch list because of their chronic safety problems. The plants were subject to frequent cost overruns and fines, and were often shut down for months at a time for repairs.

In 1998, for example, the utility permanently closed its two-reactor Zion plant on the shore of Lake Michigan north of Chicago. Executives concluded they simply would never be able to operate the plant properly. The plant potentially could have generated electricity until 2033.

Exelon's Rowe candidly agrees that the company's nuclear fleet suffered colossal cost overruns. He estimates the company lost between $5 billion and $10 billion building and operating its reactors.

David Kolata, director of policy for the Citizens Utility Board, said the cost of nuclear power in Illinois was spread across the state.

“The ratepayers ate some of it and ComEd ate some of it,” he said. “Certainly, consumers paid more than they should have.”

Nuclear power advocates make clear that the electric power industry will not pay for new plants. They say the government must subsidize construction costs.

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on January 20, 2005 8:44 AM.

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