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While industry looks for handouts, NRC gives nod to reduced safety oversight via Beyond Nuclear International

By Linda Pentz Gunter

It was no surprise really, when the first to line up with outstretched palms as Congress debated and formulated its now passed $2 trillion coronavirus-prompted emergency relief bill, were nuclear corporations.

The sinking nuclear power industry spotted an economic lifeline and couldn’t wait to make a grab for it. The Nuclear Energy Institute, the lobbying arm of the nuclear power industry, rushed off a letter to congressional leaders asking for a 30% tax credit and waivers for existing regulatory fees.

One of NEI’s apparently needy recipients is the financial fiasco known as Vogtle 3 and 4, the new nuclear power plant construction project in Georgia, which is already more than five years behind schedule and is projected to cost $28 billion, double the original predicted price.

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The two new Georgia reactors aren’t needed, and their continued slow progress is by no means a matter of national security right now — or at all. But the NEI would like to see a nice fat grant go to Georgia Power to continue construction there, even though the company has already received two federal loan guarantees totaling $12 billion.

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Before long, the nuclear weapons manufacturers got in on the act as well. Wrote the group, Code Pink: “Boeing has the audacity to demand a $60 billion taxpayer bailout for their shareholders and CEO.”

Boeing is responsible for the Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, to be replaced this year with the misleadingly named Ground Based Strategic Deterrent. Boeing has also already received a $26.7 million contract from the U.S. Navy for Trident II D5 ballistic missile maintenance, rebuilding and technical services.

Astonishingly, it was ultra conservative senator, Ted Cruz, who was one of those who pushed back against the corporate bailouts for the likes of Boeing and GE, manufacturer of the ill-fated Fukushima nuclear power plants and similar boiling water reactors in the US that are meltdowns waiting to happen. 

Cruz tweeted that “some are pushing for a special carve-out just for Boeing & GE. That would be WRONG. Millions are losing jobs; we don’t need bailouts or corporate welfare — those companies should participate in the same liquidity programs as everyone else.”

But Boeing apparently got its wish. A $17 billion federal loan package contained in the stimulus bill passed by both the House and Senate and signed by President Trump on March 27, “was crafted largely for the company’s benefit,” according to reporting in the Washington Post.

Boeing may also be able to dip its fingers into the “$58 billion the Senate package is providing in loans for cargo and passenger airlines, as well as the $425 billion in loans it is allocating to help firms, states and cities hurt by the current downturn,” wrote the Washington Post, even though, as Code Pink pointed out, alluding to the two 737 MAX disasters, Boeing is responsible for “defective civilian planes that plummet from the sky in mid-flight.”

Boeing shares soared more than 24% on the day the Senate bill passed.

The US is already spending $35.1 billion a year on its nuclear weapons arsenal. As the timely graph below from ICAN points out, this money could be redirected to a wealth of essential needs that would help quell the novel coronavirus in the US.

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