Washington Watch: Nuclear Bailout Slipped Into Budget Bill
A proposed nuclear plant in Georgia on which construction had been halted due to massive cost overruns stands to benefit from a provision in the federal budget bill passed late last week. Public taxpayers and ratepayers will cover the soaring costs.
As usual with hastily negotiated, massive pieces of budget legislation, the omnibus budget bill adopted by Congress last week has far too many moving parts to describe quickly and accurately. Among many other items, the bill contained good news for some energy sources and bad (or no) news for others.
One of the bill’s winners is the essentially bankrupt proposed Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia. The plant’s costs had doubled to $23 billion and are likely to continue to soar. Its utility owner told regulators that it couldn’t afford to complete the plant without massive help, and Georgia state regulatory staff recommended that it be scrapped. Instead, Congress and President Trump have declared that U.S. taxpayers will bail out the project. A combination of direct loan guarantees and a new tax break are designed to rescue the plant.
This latest public bailout of the failing commercial nuclear power industry may postpone its last rites for a little more time, but the economic realities are stark. So long as clean, renewable energy sources are allowed to continue their rising growth curve, the end of commercial nuclear power construction in the United States is inevitable. Environmental advocates will continue to press for policies supporting that clean power curve.