Nuclear Bailouts - A Radioactive Cost to Taxpayers | Citizens Against Government Waste
The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Nuclear Bailouts - A Radioactive Cost to Taxpayers

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


On March 22, 2019, the Trump Administration took another step to act on the president’s campaign promise to financially support coal and nuclear power. 

The Department of Energy announced that it would be providing a $3.7 billion loan guarantee to the Vogtle Electric Generation Plant located in near Waynesboro Georgia.  That brings the total government financing on this project to $12 billion.

President Obama allocated an $8.3 billion loan to complete the Vogtle facility back in 2010 with the goal of constructing of the first new nuclear plant in the U.S. in 30 years.  However, since President Obama’s initial loan, cost increases and delays (in part due to a contractor’s bankruptcy) have left the plant unfinished.  Yet, taxpayers will now be forced to throw further good taxpayer money after bad. 

Our March 22, 2019, blog highlighted how state-level bailout plans for failing nuclear power generation plants are gaining steam in several states, with the administration’s encouragement.  The saga at Vogtle Electric underscores the hefty risk taxpayers would incur as bailouts continue across the country.  For an administration keen on cutting wasteful government spending, an additional $3.9 billion loan undercuts that commitment and could be the first step toward a larger grid-intervention policy that will cost taxpayers dearly.

A July 19, 2018, report by the Brattle Group estimated it will cost taxpayers $34 billion over two years if every coal and nuclear plant in the country were bailed out as the administration originally proposed. That is a steep price to pay when those funds could be used for more practical measures like strengthening the nation’s energy grid, investing in cyber-protection technologies, or upgrading general infrastructure to bolster the nation’s natural gas supply.

To bailout a power plant that a private corporation has failed to keep within budget and on schedule brings this flawed policy to a new level.  The latest announcement from Secretary Perry signals unnecessary political interference in energy markets.  A corporation that cannot manage its projects properly doesn’t deserve a federal bailout by taxpayers. Taxpayer dollars are intended to serve the public, not support corporate irresponsibility. 

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