In Business Las Vegas
In Business Las Vegas
April 30, 2004


Block the nuclear pollution subsidy

This week a consortium of some of the biggest energy companies in the United States asked the federal government for $400 million in subsidies to help develop advanced reactors that one day could be used at nuclear power plants. The plans to create a more advanced nuclear reactor, needless to say, caught our attention since the federal government wants to build a high-level nuclear waste dump in Nevada. The dump,

if it ever does get a federal license to open, isn't supposed to accept more than 77,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste. There are concerns that the high level nuclear waste from the power plants already online will easily exceed the 77,000-ton limit for Yucca Mountain. If a whole new generation of nuclear power plants is built, then just exactly where would all the radioactive waste go?

Technically, another dump in the nation could be built as a burial site for the extra radioactive waste, but that would never happen. Politically, there just would be too much opposition to a dump built elsewhere, a situation that would mean the extra waste would be destined for Yucca Mountain. That would mean even more potential for shipping accidents and terrorist attacks near and in Las Vegas, not to mention the same dangers posed to hundreds of cities and towns all along the highways and railways that nuclear waste would have to travel cross-country before arriving here.

The nuclear power companies, in seeking the federal subsidies, tout nuclear power as a safe source of energy that doesn't pollute the environment. Please. If nuclear waste is so safe, why has every state in the nation fiercely worked to keep from being targeted as the nation's nuclear waste dump?

Some industries are deserving of tax breaks or subsidies, especially when it comes to research and development that actually creates a benefit for the nation. Such government assistance should be limited, though, to those industries that either have a proven track record or show great promise. Nuclear power, which fails on both counts, continues to be expensive and dangerous to produce. Rather than wasting federal taxpayer money on a worthless industry, we'd much rather see the federal government offer breaks to genuinely dean sources of energy, or even return the money to taxpayers. Now wouldn't that be something?