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Build Back Better Act: Climate Salvation? Or Trojan Horse? via NIRS, Beyond Nuclear, Indigenous Environmental Network, NEIS

Devils in the details reveal massive spending on “false climate solutions,”safe energy advocates reveal

WASHINGTON, D.C.:  Close inspection of the mark-up language being proposed in parts of the “Build Back Better” Reconciliation package have uncovered large hidden subsidies and loopholes that benefit Big Dirty Energy, including approximately $50 billion in subsidies for existing nuclear power plants. With such provisions, the bill will produce far less benefit, and create far fewer jobs fighting the climate crisis than legislators claim or would like the public to believe, and that the Biden Administration claims it stands for.

Providing obscure and arcane funding mechanisms for less- to non-effective energy sources for combatting climate disruption – like nuclear power, carbon capture and storage, waste incineration and biomass, to name a few – would subvert the stated intention of the Biden Administration to take serious and effective action to address the current “Climate Code Red.”

“Nuclear bailouts of aging, money-losing nuclear reactors are a waste of precious time and money — resources better spent on getting us directly to a truly clean-energy future,” states Tim Judson of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS).  “Money wasted on old reactors that will close soon anyway is money not spent or available for the technologies we need to get to a real clean energy future:  renewables, energy efficiency, energy storage and transmission improvements,” Judson concludes.

Many reputable energy analysts and professionals agree with this assessment. 

Internationally acclaimed energy analyst and physicist Amory Lovins has stated previously that those endorsing nuclear bailouts, “[are] making the usual mistake of counting carbon but not also cost. This blind spot conceals the consequence that continuing to operate distressed (uneconomic-to-run) nuclear plants makes climate change worse, because the cheaper carbon-free resources they crowd out would save even more carbon per dollar than continued operation (even without extra subsidies).”

The late S. David Freeman, former chairman of the heavily nuclear-reliant TVA and several public utilities companies, most notably the New York Power Authority, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, states it more simply, Anyone who would substitute plutonium for carbon needs to think again.”

One estimate of the amount of nuclear subsidization found in the BBB and Infrastructure package places the amount between $46-$54 billion.  As a numerical comparison, that is the approximate (financial) equivalence of between 23,000 and 27,000 modern, new 2-MW wind turbines. That is the energy equivalent, counting for intermittency, of roughly 8-9 present-day nuclear reactors. at a far lower cost. The two and only nuclear reactors still under construction in the US in Georgia are projected to cost more than $28 billion, if completed.

The Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) is also a matter of deep concern to safe-energy advocates.

“The flawed concept of ‘technology neutrality’ has been used to provide greenwashing-cover for dirty energies and it enables polluters to skim funding away from renewable energy. Lumping incentives for fossil fuels and false solutions with truly clean and renewable energy sources undermines emission reduction goals and embeds environmental harms,” according to a sign-on letter sent to Congressional leadership by the coalition of NGOs including Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), Friends of the Earth (FOE), and Food and Water Watch.

The letter goes on to state, “fossil fuels (including fossil gas), CCS, and other false solutions are not beneficial to communities and exacerbate existing impacts especially to Indigenous, Black and other frontline communities,” indicating that these hidden and arcane loopholes are clearly a matter of environmental justice concern.

Definitions of “carbon intensity” in the CEPP have allowed qualifying standards for utilities and industries applying for the Program’s ‘clean electricity payments’ to be set so low as to enable energy sources like nuclear power to be defined as “clean” energy.

“Relative to coal, nuclear power may be relatively ‘low-carbon’ but it is not “clean” by any rational standards,” asserts Paul Gunter of Beyond Nuclear“90,000 tons of high-level radioactive wastes and over 15,000 abandoned uranium mining sites across the American Southwest isn’t ‘clean’ or ‘just,” he continued.  “We need to take a hard look at all of the impacts, not just the point of  generation of electricity.”

Nuclear power has been shown to have a sizeable total carbon-footprint – a cradle-to-grave calculation of the amount of greenhouse gases the nuclear industry puts out counting all operations required for its continued operation.

“The nuclear industry is notorious for its reimaging,” said Gunter. “First it was the ‘peaceful atom,’ then ‘too cheap to meter’, now it’s ‘zero’ emissions, none of it is true,” concluded Gunter.

While the legislation deals solely with financial considerations, safe-energy advocates point out the seemingly intimate connections between nuclear bailouts and corruption.

David Kraft, director of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), points out an additional ominous dimension to the federal nuclear subsidies:

“The overwhelming amount of these subsidies and state-level nuclear bailout schemes would go to nuclear utilities which have demonstrated a consistent penchant for corruption and criminal behavior in their business models,” Kraft points out. 

“Exelon in Illinois, Energy Harbor (nee First Energy) in Ohio, SCANA in South Carolina – all have been subject to FBI investigations, federal fraud, bribery and improper lobbying charges, and outright admissions of guilt, paying hundreds of millions of dollars in fines.  These are neither the business partners nor the industry America can rely on to successfully fight and win against the climate crisis,” Kraft asserts.

Safe-energy advocates are urging Congress to deny undeserved bailouts, financial supports and incentives to the “false” solutions to Climate Code Red that are fossil fuels, nuclear power, biomass, waste incineration, carbon capture and storage (CCS), offsets, and other unpromising yet expensive technofixes. 

They instead urge Congress to re-allocate such funds to truly effective and currently readily available climate fighting solutions which are renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage and transmission upgrades.

They urge Congress to understand that you can’t build an energy future by bailing out the past.

–30—

Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) is a national non-profit organization devoted to a nuclear-free, carbon-free world, based in Takoma Park, MD.

Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future.  It is based in Takoma Park, MD.

Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) is an alliance of Indigenous Peoples whose Shared Mission is to Protect the Sacredness of Earth Mother from contamination & exploitation by Respecting and Adhering to Indigenous Knowledge and Natural Law. Their office is in Bemidji, MN.

Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) is a Chicago-based safe-energy, anti-nuclear power watchdog environmental organization promoting renewables and efficiency alternatives to nuclear power,

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