NIRS is launching a new campaign to stop a national bailout to promote nuclear power and coal. No one knows exactly what the Trump administration’s plans are yet, but we expect them to be announced very soon. This will reportedly kick off with a Department of Energy report claiming that nuclear and coal need more federal support because they are vital to national security.
This is ironic timing, given Monday’s developments in South Carolina, where utilities decided to cancel one of the only two new nuclear reactor construction projects in the U.S., South Carolina Electric & Gas, and Santee Cooper decided this morning to stop building the Summer 2 and 3 reactors—now projected to cost $25 billion. That means only two of the 32 new reactors proposed under the so-called “Nuclear Renaissance”—the Vogtle 3 and 4 reactors in Georgia—may ever be completed, and utilities could decide to cancel them as soon as next month.
As big of a boondoggle as these new reactors are, it’s nothing compared to Trump’s bailout scheme. Possibly hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies for dirty, old coal and nuclear power plants … plus more attacks on renewables and other clean energy technologies, like energy storage and efficiency. Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Global Climate Agreement and leasing off our national parks for coal mining and oil and gas drilling is bad. Really bad.
But this bailout plan is even worse: directly giving energy corporations billions of dollars to operate coal and nuclear plants means actually making more pollution, mining more coal and uranium, and blocking the growth of solar and wind.
We are on the cusp of a clean energy revolution, in which the U.S. could transition to 100% carbon-free, nuclear-free, renewable energy by the time today’s high school students are parents of high schoolers themselves. So far this year, renewables are generating more power than nuclear in the U.S.—a major milestone that official government estimates didn’t foresee for another twenty years.
It should have happened sooner. Twenty years ago, the nuclear industry got $86 billion in bailouts for the same reactors they want us to subsidize again, today. That is equal to $130 billion in 2017 dollars. What if we had invested that money in solar and wind instead? A lot of reactors would have closed, and we’d be years ahead of where we are now with solar and wind.
We can’t afford to make the same mistake this time around. If Trump bails out nuclear and coal, it will set us back decades. As we pointed out in a report last fall, a national bailout for nuclear power alone could cost between $160 billion and $280 billion this time around. But not only is subsidizing old, uneconomical power plants a waste of billions of dollars–the Trump administration will need to slow the growth of solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources, decimating new industries that are now employing hundreds of thousands of people. When Nevada regulators imposed major fee increases on rooftop solar last year, it immediately ground the state’s solar industry to a halt, costing thousands of jobs.
The White House has been laying the groundwork over the last couple months. President Trump and Energy Secretary Rick Perry have announced a goal of “Energy Dominance” – a new policy going beyond the well-worn idea of energy independence, to increasing global dependence on dirty energy resources and blocking renewables.
Of course, the truth is that renewable energy and efficiency offer true independence, as well as economic security and national security. You can’t get more “energy independent” than renewable energy. Efficient homes and appliances don’t need as much energy to begin with. Generating power with free sunshine and wind means no gas price spikes and pipeline leaks. Making your own electricity with solar panels on your roof and your backyard, and even storing your energy in your electric car, or in batteries in your basement, means you don’t have to worry as much about power outages and blackouts … and on top of all of it, it means breathing easier with lower utility bills, less pollution, and fewer risks of climate and radioactive disasters.
And more jobs—a lot more jobs—and more money in everyone’s pockets. Solar and wind are now cheaper than any other sources of power, and already employ twice as many people in the U.S. as coal and nuclear combined. Coal and nuclear account for five times as much of America’s energy mix, so solar and wind are creating ten times as many jobs as the dirty energy Trump wants to save—at lower cost, while producing no radioactive, toxic, or greenhouse pollution.
But that positive vision all sounds like a nightmare to Trump’s dirty energy corporate backers. If we don’t have to buy their nuclear power and fossil fuels, then their days are numbered. They want to boost their dividends and benefit packages for as long as they can, no matter the cost to everyone else–and no matter how much the whole country could benefit from the shift to a renewable energy economy.
So please join NIRS in our campaign to Stop the Nuclear and Coal Bailout—sign our petition here and share it with your friends … and help us reach thousands more people so we can really turn the tide against Trump’s dirty energy agenda!