I'm Confused

I know conservatives get as excited about nuclear energy as a progressive at hempfest, but can anyone tell my why conservatives are so quick to endorse $8 billion of government loan gaurantees to a private company?    We are headed for a corporate state and our two parties are simply competing with each other to see who can get us there first.


  1. Jess:

    Ah, no offense, but exactly which conservatives are mentioned in the attached article?

  2. gadfly:

    I have never considered Lamar Alexander a conservative, but he has a lifetime voting record of over 80 on a 100 scale according to the American Conservatve union, which rates such things. Jon Kyl's rating is 97 and McCain's is 81 but he is 68 of late. Lindsay Graham also has a 89 rating ... and as far as I am concerned neither McCain nor Graham are conservative. Gosh, maybe I am a Libertarian.

  3. sch:

    It is pretty unlikely, given the hassle of the '70s that
    any private company or quasipublic utility is going to
    build a nuke without at least some federal cover as a
    partial shield against rabid greens and antinukes. A
    loan guarantee implicitly provides this. At least the
    project generally makes sense and is much more likely
    to pay for itself than a wind farm or solar facility
    which require subsidies in perpetuity. Sometime in the
    next 50yrs we are going to have to bite the bullet and
    resume reprocessing. There are only so many soviet
    nukes to supply fissionables.

  4. Link:

    You need these government guarantees to offset the risk of construction delays from stonewalling litigation, etc. -- things that are in government's control, were it to assert authority.

    Nuclear costs are mostly due to construction, not operation. If we found a way to streamline the construction process, costs would come down a lot.

    Further, a lot of what we could do today doesn't fit into an antiquated regulatory regime.

  5. ktwo:

    I don't like loan guarantees for companies. They are, IMO, worse than direct government loans. The guarantees are just words on paper but a government loan must come from a government account. It is a lot easier to make promises than to pay.

    Nukes are one place I support government loans or guarantees. The US government micro-manages nuke construction to a degree that in effect makes them the general contractor. So why not require them to insure payment?

    Today's government will change and the next one may be anti-nuke and stop the entire thing. There will also be lawsuits to stop any such plants and who knows what the courts will do?

    If you want nukes built in the US we have to do this. And since the rates of all electric utilities are regulated the Southern Company is not going to make outrageous profits.

  6. Mark:

    I don't think conservatives are all that hip on nuke power. Except to point out the hypocrisy of liberals who hate all power. They claim CO2 is a poison and we need to build all these magical mystical new age devices to get the power at great cost, and even then they complain when you actually try to build one of these new age plants. Conservatives point out that Nuke power would accomplish the goal of less CO2 more efficiently and for much less cost wise. I even recall reading on this blog that a nuke plant has a particularly low level of land use per kilowatt of output.

    I am all for reducing the onerous regulations that prevent power plants from being built, and maybe a new regulation limiting environmental suits to just a dozen per project. But 8 billion in basically free money - doesn't bode well with me either.

  7. Joseph Hertzlinger:

    It's regulation insurance. If the government has to pay money that might be used to buy votes if absurd regulatory delays cause a nuclear utility to go bankrupt, it might be less likely to have absurd regulations.

    OTOH, in this administration such payments might be called a "stimulus," so it might not work.

  8. roger the shrubber:

    "headed" for a corporate state? how charmingly naive. i think they made if official when the banks had their congress pass the new, "improved" bankruptcy laws in 2005. should there be any doubt about this, we need only ask ourselves, "is the new law *better* or *worse* for joe sixpack? is it *more* or *less* favorable to the banks?"

  9. Max:

    Well, nothing special here. Nuclear power plants are due to safety reasons more costly than coal power plants. That's why companies love to build coal power plants, but don't like to shoulder the fixed costs of new nuclear reactor (though they are happy to operate them). It has been thusly in Germany, even before the uproar by Greens all over the country. Nuclear power is not the most loved power plant with energy companies and it will fade into history sooner, if "green energies" are supsidized.

    If you look to Germany, accounting for energy balances between grids usuallly is complex and lags about 2 years beyond the actual use. This means that in 2010, we finally know what produced what in which power plant in 2008. Since about 2006, wind power is a real dominant percentage of total electricity production. And these energy sources are highly volatile in their output, so you have to cope with that by installing fast-response sources like water power plants.
    So, now, you have a dynamic PRODUCTION to satisfy a dynamic CONSUMPTION (while 10 years ago ist was CONSTANT PRODUCTION to dynamic CONSUMPTION). And this is one of the reasons, why nuclear power plants will be unnecessary the more green energy is forced into the market. It will, however, become more important to built subterran vaults that can function as a huge capacitor. Of course, this will raise prices constantly for the coming years, which will hit industries, consumers and especially the poor hardest.

    So, happy eco-fest...

  10. Bob Smith:

    If the government has to pay money that might be used to buy votes if absurd regulatory delays cause a nuclear utility to go bankrupt, it might be less likely to have absurd regulations.

    It's all other people's money either way, why should the bureaucrats in question care about the costs of their regulations?

  11. rxc:

    As a former nuclear regulator, I can tell you that the high costs of nuclear plants in the 70s and 80s was due to a perfect storm of coincidences, not just the regulation. I don't know if you remember, but interest rates for a home purchase were around 18% in 1981. THis makes it a bit expensive to build something big. There were also a lot of smaller utilities building these plants who had no idea what they were getting into - they did not have any expertise with the technology or the financial risk or the construction techniques. As a result, they made a lot of mistakes. There were LOTS of unions, especially in places near big cities, that thought of these projects as life-long employment opportunities. They would have one shift install something, but "just happen" to bump into it at the end of the shift and damage it. The next shift cut it out, while the third shift re-installed it.

    The plants were also not completely designed when construction started, so there were a lot of changes that were made long the way, which is expensive. The newer plants are trying to avoid this problem, but they cannot completely avoid it. The design of the reactors themselves is pretty well set, but none of the "standard designs" have finalized the design of the instrumentation and control systems, because they want to be able to buy the latest technology when it became available, and not be locked into old technology.

    There were also not enough experienced engineers to design, build, or operate these plants, so the plants that were built had a number of flaws that took tike to work out.

    In March 1979 there was an accident at the TMI plant (just completed) which resulted in the development of a LOT of new safety regulations that required more changes and delays.

    On top of all of this, there were constant attacks on the technology by anti-nuclear groups, public service commissions that did not want to spend all this money, local citizens groups that wanted to be paid for the disruption caused by the construction, and politicians who were trying to get everything they could out of the controversy. They all went to court, and the legal system in the US is not known for its ability to resolve conflict quickly and definitively. As a good example, the original plans for the SHoreham plant envisioned the plant costing about $80million. In the end it cost $6 billion, including about $500 in direct legal costs by the utility. The
    anti-nuke forces, supported by Suffolk County, NY, spent over $100million on lawyers to oppose the plant. In the end, it was abandoned.

    There was a LOT of blame to spread around for the problems with the first generation of nuclear plants, and it is likely to all come back with these new proposals. They (the utilities) should have learned from the past, but I don't think they have, and many of the same mistakes will be made in the future, and the Feds will pick up the tab for the delays.

  12. tomw:

    This is a buncha cr*p. Obanocchio is taking credit for a pair of plants that are in the 'pipeline' already. Southern Co got GA legislators to approve ALREADY including some of the construction note interest costs in current rates.

    If he truly wanted to speed up construction and thus the construction jobs that would follow on, he would intercede into the regulations process. It will take about two years to get paperwork through the 'system'.
    The process is not designed for success, but rather as a roadblock to success. Real desire to improve the economy would be to blow up the roadblock, but we know that won't happen.

    never mind.

  13. sch:

    One problem with "learning from the past" is that essentially everybody involved in the building era of the '70s is long
    gone and institutional memory is weak as to details. In addition, no US company has built nukes in 30yrs, and the ones
    that did either folded, or were sold off, ie Westinghouse brand is spread all over the Far East, but the nuke part is
    Japanese owned.

  14. Boglee:

    So, any word about re-opening Yucca?

  15. IgotBupkis:

    > Nuclear power is not the most loved power plant with energy companies and it will fade into history sooner, if “green energies” are subsidized.

    Unlike nuclear power, however, "green energy" (as it is currently defined)
    a) Costs about 10x the expense of the alternatives. This isn't going to change. Period. No ifs, no ands, no buts.
    b) Will neither produce an adequate, reliable quantity of energy nor allow us to phase out "green poorer" choices short of brownouts and forced lowering of electrical demand.

    Power companies WOULD love nukes if all the damned greens would do humanity AND the earth itself a favor and go take a short walk off a tall cliff.

    The USA should be leading the way to producing an accident-resistant, safety-inherent, standardized, modular power plant design which can be constructed nearly anywhere on the planet without major alterations (i.e., a half-dozen tailored configurations with specifically identified site components detailed out). It's doable, affordable, and would net billions, if not trillions, of dollars in royalties while lowering electric costs radically. We could have done this about two decades ago, and we certainly should be doing it now. Such a plant could and should be both earthquake and terrorist resistant, and immune to any kind of natural or man-made disaster which would not make a "nuclear substance release" look trivial (current US nuke plants can, for example, withstand a 911 style attack without broaching the containment vessel).

    Coal and oil-fired plants are directly at fault in something on the order of 20k or more premature deaths per year in the USA due to emphysema and various lung diseases alone. That's a half a million people in the last 25 years. A half million. That's not expressed as an attack on coal fired power -- it's just one blatantly obvious reason why WE SHOULD HAVE A LOT MORE NUKES.

  16. rxc:

    Oh, and BTW, Max has no idea what he is talking about.

    This comment was somehow forgotten from my first post, but it was/is people like Max who will cause the Feds to pay for these guarantees.

  17. Jacob:

    If the plants get built and operate normally they'll repay their loans easily and the government will make a profit from the loan guaranties.
    The ability to complete the plant and make it operational depends in great part on government regulation. The loan guaranties are needed to minimize risks that come from government regulation, so they're justified.

  18. MikeinAppalachia:

    More interesting is that ObIwon's DOE has just refused a similiar loan gaurantee for the centrifuge-based US Enrichment facility. The existing diffusion plants that are currently reprocessing the Russian nukes for fuel are 60 years old now and badly in need of upgrades and repair. If we do manage to get a new series of nuke power plants-where will we get our fuel? This was particularly offensive as the US Export/Import gave a very similiar loan guarantee to Soros' Brazilian oil company for developing a new offshore field the day before the enrichment plant was denied.
    Follow the money in that, and granstanding in the case of the Ga nuke plants which were already underway.

  19. Steve Lambert:

    Tesla solved the problem of free energy (available from the vacuum in virtually limitless amounts, i.e., from the so-called Dirac sea) long ago. Of course, this had to be suppressed because it wouldn't generate tremendous profits for the plutocracy and would allow entirely too much freedom. See, http://www.cheniere.com