"Golden Fleece Award" Goes To Department of Energy For Federal Spending On Small Modular Reactors

  "Golden Fleece Award" Goes To Department of Energy For Federal Spending On
                            Small Modular Reactors

PR Newswire

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2013

$100 Million in "Mini Nuke" Corporate Welfare Already Doled Out, Another Half
Billion Dollars Or More in the Pipeline for Major Corporations that Could Pay
for Own R&D, Licensing

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The federal government is
in the process of wasting more than half a billion dollars to pay large,
profitable companies for what should be their own expenses for research &
development (R&D) and licensing related to "small modular reactors" (SMRs),
which would be about a third of the size or less of today's large nuclear
reactors. In response, the nonpartisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense today
handed out its latest "Golden Fleece Award" to the Department of Energy for
the dollars being wasted on SMRs.

Titled "Taxpayer Subsidies for Small Modular Reactors," a related TCS
background report is available online at www.taxpayer.net. 

Ryan Alexander, president, Taxpayers for Common Sense, said: "The nation is
two days away from the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration.
But at the same time we are hearing the Department of Energy and the nuclear
industry evangelizing about the benefits of small modular reactors. In
reality, we cannot afford to pile more market-distorting subsidies to
profitable companies on top the billions of dollars we already gave away."

Autumn Hanna, senior program director, Taxpayers for Common Sense, said: "The
nuclear industry has a tradition of rushing forth to proclaim that a new
technology, just around the corner, will take care of whatever problem exists.
Unfortunately, these technologies have an equally long tradition of expensive
failure. If the industry believes in small modular reactors and a reactor in
every backyard – great – but don't expect the taxpayer to pick up the tab."

The federal government already paid for a version of SMR R&D when small
reactors were designed for the U.S. Navy's nuclear submarine fleet. Now some
highly profitable companies – including Babcock & Wilcox, Westinghouse, Holtec
International, and Fluor Corporation -- are at the federal trough for another
round of federal support for small modular reactors that could go into
suburban American neighborhoods.

The TCS Award announcement takes place a few weeks before the release of
President Obama's latest budget outline, which is expected to call for a
continuation of SMR licensing and R&D funding at taxpayer's expense. The
Department of Energy has already provided nearly $100 million for these
so-called mini reactors while their commercial viability remains in question.
In addition, DOE has committed up to $452 million over the next five years in
an attempt to fund up to two separate demonstration projects.

In making the Golden Fleece Award, Taxpayers for Common Sense highlighted the
following issues:

  o"Hot-tub" sized reactors … and king-sized costs? The vision the industry
    and DOE seem to be peddling is a chicken in every pot, a car in every
    garage, and a reactor in every basement. It's hard to see the large-scale
    viability. Absolutely no one is clamoring to buy an SMR because there is
    no assurance that the electricity will be remotely competitive with power
    from other sources. New nuclear power today is uncompetitive by a very
    wide margin. At today's natural gas prices, SMRs would have to produce
    electricity at half the projected cost of conventional reactors to
    compete. There is not the slightest indication that they can do so.
  oThe case being made for federally subsidized SMRs directly contradicts the
    case that already has been made by the same industry for federal
    subsidized large reactors. "There are no reliable cost estimates for
    SMRs. Nuclear vendors are notorious for underestimating costs, and there
    is no actual experience. Since the 1950s, the nuclear industry worldwide
    has consistently pushed for larger reactors on the theory that economics
    would improve if the high fixed costs of building safe plants could be
    spread over more kilowatt hours. SMRs represent a reversal of this
    reasoning and call into question the extensive federal support now being
    offered to promote a 'nuclear renaissance' based on standardizing and
    sticking to a few large reactor designs."
  oThere is no assurance that SMRs would pass regulatory muster. "The United
    States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has stated it is not fully
    prepared to license small modular reactors. In 2008, NRC estimated that it
    would have a regulatory review process in place to license the first small
    modular reactors within five years. However in a May 2012 the NRC said,
    'If an appreciable fraction of total SMR initiatives materialized, it
    would create an untenable situation for the NRC.'"
  oSMRs come with several additional question marks. Major issues for
    taxpayers include the lack of long-term radioactive waste storage, the
    creation of additional targets for terrorist attacks across suburban
    American, the cost of added security to protect the new facilities, etc.

SMRs have been the focus of a considerable amount of uncritical news media
coverage in recent months.

A fraction of the size of conventional-scale reactors, small modular reactors
are intended to be manufactured by assembly line and transported by truck,
ship, or rail to their destinations. With designs ranging in size from
one-third the size of a large-scale plant to "hot-tub" sized, SMRs would also
produce significantly less power.


Taxpayers for Common Sense is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan budget watchdog serving
as an independent voice for American taxpayers. The mission of TCS is to
achieve a government that spends taxpayer dollars responsibly and operates
within its means. The organization works with individuals, policymakers, and
the media to increase transparency, expose and eliminate wasteful and corrupt
subsidies, earmarks, and corporate welfare, and hold decision makers

The Golden Fleece Award was created in 1975 by the late Senator William
Proxmire. It is intended to highlight instances of wasteful spending. After
retirement, Sen. Proxmire served as Honorary Chairman of Taxpayers for Common
Sense's Advisory Board and passed the mantle of the Golden Fleece to the
organization in 2000.

EDITOR'S NOTE:  A streaming audio replay of the news event will be available
on the Web at http://www.taxpayer.net as of 5 p.m. EST on February 27, 2013.

CONTACT: Steve Ellis, +1-202-546-8500 x126, or steve@taxpayer.net; and Ailis
Wolf, +1-703-276-3265 oraawolf@hastingsgroup.com.

SOURCE Taxpayers for Common Sense, Washington, DC

Website: http://www.taxpayer.net
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