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Senate Reheats Nuclear Pork; Expects Us to Eat It

It’s back! Remember the $50 billion that the Senate wanted to give away to those nice folks who just can’t keep their nuclear waste to themselves? Remember how the nuclear pork had mutated into a part of the stimulus bill, and how the House/Senate conferees excised the whole thing in February? Well, Senate Nuclear Caucus co-chair Mike Crapo (R-ID) disinterred the putrid remains and stitched them up for consumption. Ten days ago, Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-ND) served up Crapo’s work as a budget amendment, and the Senate zombie-feeders agreed without exception to put Crapo’s nuclear pork in the budget sausage. The Villagers sure love to pay top dollar: too bad they’re using our Treasury to buy their donors’ bribers’ toxic waste. Where’s the fallout?

Even after pouring trillions into Treasurer Tim’s zombie-feeding trough, you’d think someone in the Senate—like, say, the Democratic chair of the Budget Committee—would recognize this whole thing smells putrid. Especially when—as Harvey Wasserman pointed out yesterday—the nuclear pork Crapo dug up was first spat out of Bush’s budget bill in 2007. And 2008. Of course, in the Bizzaro world of Gooper safety regulation, Crapo claims the nuclear pork is still good because it was first sold in 2005. No wonder the FDA and USDA barely survived a GOP president.

Thirty years after Three Mile Island’s failure belched radioactive waste across thousands of families and their homes, the US nuclear industry’s still moribund. Why? Although nuclear power’s mutant priesthood long ago tricked the public into paying for their toxic accidents (hey, the banksters had to copy someone) through the Price-Anderson Act, even that potential $550 billion subsidy isn’t enough. Despite NPR’s fever dreams, demand for new nukes has remained dead. Harvey Wasserman describes why:

No independent financiers will take an un-subsidized flier on new reactors. Nuke operators can’t get private insurance on a major melt-down. With the proposed Yucca Mountain dump all but dead, the industry—after fifty years—has no certified place to take its high-level radioactive waste.

So, no one wants what they have to sell even with subsidies. That’s how the free market spells "failure." Fortunately for the world’s nukesters, our federal elections are free markets in campaign donations bribery, and the Senators are usually all too happy to sell votes to the highest Village bidder. So the nukesters can count on having an eager corporatist servant like Crapo to carry the heavy water. Hey, how else would Crapo equal the zero percent rating he earned from the League of Conservation Voters in 2006?

Good thing for the nukesters that we’ve allowed the Villagers to transform our government into a short-order corporatist subsidy shop. And a global one, at that. As Wasserman points out, Crapo-Conrad’s $50 billion subsidy will feed French nukesters as well as American ones. That’s just what the people of Idaho and North Dakota want, right?

Lucky nukesters again. You see, without Crapo and Conrad’s indulgent constituents, they’d really be hurting. Amory Lovins explained why last summer on Democracy Now:

And this sounds good for climate, but actually, expanding nuclear makes climate change worse, for a very simple reason. Nuclear is incredibly expensive. The costs have just stood up on end lately. Wall Street Journal recently reported that they’re about two to four times the cost that the industry was talking about just a year ago. And the result of that is that if you buy more nuclear plants, you’re going to get about two to ten times less climate solution per dollar, and you’ll get it about twenty to forty times slower, than if you buy instead the cheaper, faster stuff that is walloping nuclear and coal and gas, all kinds of central plans, in the marketplace. [snip]

So, nuclear cannot actually deliver the climate or the security benefits claimed for it. It’s unrelated to oil. And it’s grossly uneconomic, which means the nuclear revival that we often hear about is not actually happening. It’s a very carefully fabricated illusion. And the reason it isn’t happening is there are no buyers. That is, Wall Street is not putting a penny of private capital into the industry, despite 100-plus percent subsidies.

In his groundbreaking "cradle to grave" comparison of non-carbon energy sources, Stanford professor Mark Jacobson exploded the nukesters’ myth that global warming finally created the market for the technology they’ve fetishized:

"Coal with carbon sequestration emits 60- to 110-times more carbon and air pollution than wind energy, and nuclear emits about 25-times more carbon and air pollution than wind energy," Jacobson said. [snip]

Nuclear power poses other risks….Jacobson calculated that if one small nuclear bomb exploded, the carbon emissions from the burning of a large city would be modest, but the death rate for one such event would be twice as large as the current vehicle air pollution death rate summed over 30 years.

Finally, both coal and nuclear energy plants take much longer to plan, permit and construct than do most of the other new energy sources that Jacobson’s study recommends. The result would be even more emissions from existing nuclear and coal power sources as people continue to use comparatively "dirty" electricity while waiting for the new energy sources to come online, Jacobson said.

Nukes fail the tests of market demand. Nukes also fail the race to provide carbon free power fast enough for us to escape runaway global warming. So what did Senator Conrad and the rest of the Senators do? They swallowed Crapo’s steaming pile of subsidy, sucking down $50 billion worth without a single recorded word of protest.

Even though tomorrow is Easter, I can’t help feeling like this is Groundhog Day. Two months ago we faced the same crap from the best government money can buy:

Gee: few new jobs for over a decade, most wasteful, and relatively deadly. What’s not to like about wasting 5[0] billion of stimulus for that? For the 300 million Americans who aren’t…Mr Burns, or a Senate member, just about everything.

Speaker Pelosi, can we help you take back the 5[0] billion in our money to use for us, not the usual suspects? They’ve destroyed enough lives already. The rest of us want to live – and work. Taking back the 5[0] billion to spend on our kids and families and neighbors will help us do that. How can we help you do it, Madame Speaker?

I hope this ends the same way, but without the reprise. Let the poor groundhog alone.

And let poor Senator Conrad develop a more discerning palate. The next time a corporatist servant serves him a steaming bowl of Crapo, I hope he finds the wits not to swallow it.

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Kirk Murphy

Kirk Murphy

terrestrial obligate aerobe with endoskeleton (bony) and bilateral symmetry.

chordate, bipedal, warm-blooded, mammalian, placental (origin), opposable thumbs.

not (yet) extinct.

indigenous habitat: California Live Oak.

current habitat: Central California Coast (most northerly aspect).... 'northwest of the new world, east of the sea'

potential habitats: all potential habitats critically endangered (due to global climate change).

ailurophilic - hence allergic rhinitic.