Taxpayers shouldn't have to back N-power

by Eric Epstein
PPL has declared that part of its strategy to cure global warming is to add another nuclear generating station. While PPL's nuclear  stations have less of a carbon "footprint" than their coal-generating  siblings, the company has failed to acknowledge the financial,  radioactive and aquatic "footprints" associated with adding on to  the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station.

According to PPL, a new nuclear reactor requires a federal subsidy  of $4.5 billion or 80 percent of the projected cost of the project. This "nuclear loan" is guaranteed by the U.S. Treasury -- i.e., taxpayers.  The real cost, based on overruns in Florida and Texas, is actually $14  billion. Which begs the obvious question: Why aren't the shareholders  of one of the "best managed" and "most profitable utilities" (Forbes  magazine, December 2007) assuming the risk for a multibillion-dollar  slam dunk?

It's back to the future. PPL's operating nuclear plants were projected  to cost ratepayers $2.1 billion, but overruns resulted in a $4.1 billion price  tag. These are the same folks who are currently collecting $2.86 in nuclear taxes. Check out the "Competitive Transition Costs" portion of your electric  bill. It gets worse for senior citizens and those living on fixed incomes. PPL  will be treating its loyal customer base to a 35 percent increase on  Jan. 1, 2010.

What's on deck? PPL is currently requesting permission to store an  additional 1,200 tons of high-level nuclear waste alongside the Susquehanna  River over a 20-year period. PPL's nuclear generation station currently  produces 60 metric tons of spent fuel each year.

This "radioactive footprint" will last thousands of years. Susquehanna is  one of 21 nuclear power plants where used reactor fuel pools have reached  capacity. In other words, PPL already has 1,440 tons high-level nuclear  garbage looking for a home.

And as The Patriot-News pointed out, ("Disposal of nuclear waste  nears crisis stage," June 9, there is no storage bin for nuclear waste. PPL began storing low-level radioactive waste on site as of July 1, when  Barnwell, S.C., closed its facility to states outside of the Atlantic Compact.

Pennsylvania belongs to the Appalachian Compact. Neither PPL,  the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission nor the state Department of  Environmental Protection has been able to "incent" a single Pennsylvania  community to bed down with a 500-year "low-level" radioactive "footprint."

Communities and ecosystems that depend on limited water resources  are also adversely affected by the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station,  which draws 58 to 63.5 million gallons of water per day, and returns  reduced amounts of back wash at elevated temperatures. Last fall, 53  counties were placed on "drought watch," including Luzerne County  where the station is moored. Yet PPL was exempted from water conservation efforts.

Why should taxpayers subsidize PPL's "radioactive footprint?" PPL's  solution to global warming is little more than corporate socialism wrapped  in a green bow.