TSEPA: Nuclear Bailout Slips into Federal Stimulus Package

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A rush for taxpayer dollars drives Exelon's plans in Victoria

Exelon's never built a new nuclear plant before--and in Victoria, it shows every step of the way.

Members of Texans for a Sound Energy Policy Alliance (TSEPA) today questioned a new provision slipped into the federal economic stimulus bill that could allow up to $50 billion more in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees for the construction of new nuclear reactors, including Exelon's proposed project in Victoria County.

The provision would almost triple the $18.5 billion that Congress previously authorized in 2007 for new reactors. So far, none of that money has been spent, but profitable energy giant Exelon is in the race to get those dollars.

In September of 2008, Exelon submitted an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build and operate a nuclear plant in Victoria County. At first, Exelon's initial application defined the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) as its technology of choice. However, just four weeks after the NRC accepted their application, Exelon announced that it will abandon the ESBWR technology and select another - as yet to be named - technology. Exelon's application for loan guarantees was ranked 2nd from the bottom. The energy giant cited the need to improve their chances of obtaining federal loan guarantees as the reason for abandoning its technology choice.

"In Victoria, Exelon's making it up as they go," explains TSEPA Executive Director John Figer, "Exelon's never built a new nuclear plant before--and in Victoria, it shows every step of the way." They've reversed their decision on the primary site for this plant which was initially sited as Matagorda Bay. They submitted an incomplete application for the operating license on this proposed plant and still have not come up with an answer for their abandoned technology choice. TSEPA contends that taxpayers shouldn't be asked to fund Exelon's evolving "plan" in Victoria.

"Nuclear jobs in Victoria are simply too far off and too expensive in terms of taxpayer dollars and water," said TSEPA Executive Director John Figer.

TSEPA has added its voice to a growing number of national groups questioning the inclusion of new loan guarantees in the Senate version of the stimulus package. Though the stimulus bill is meant to create jobs within the next few years, Victoria will not see jobs before the plant can be licensed. Any potential licensing is at least three years away, if ever.

Nuclear job creation also comes with a hefty price tag. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, it costs about $1.5 million per job created by nuclear power."This project is voracious," said Figer. "It eats tax dollars and uses the last remaining water from the Guadalupe from Kerrville to the Bay."

In a deal with the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority, Exelon's proposed plant has reserved more than 24 billion gallons of surface water annually from the Guadalupe River. That means for each Exelon job that might be created, 34 million gallons of water from the Guadalupe River annually is required. Central Texas, and in particular the entire Guadalupe River Basin, is experiencing extreme drought conditions.

TSEPA's mission is to support a Texas energy supply policy that is reasonable, sustainable, and environmentally sound. The main goal is to ensure the process of approving the proposed nuclear power plant is not rushed or secretive. Along with seeking public opinion and community participation in the process, TSEPA has retained engineers, hydrologists, attorneys, and economic and environmental consultants to conduct independent studies to answer questions and highlight any problems that may be identified.

To learn more about TSEPA and its concerns regarding the proposed nuclear reactor, visit http://www.speakupvictoria.com.

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John Figer
TSEPA
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