Stop nuclear power’s addiction to $$

March 11, 2015

exelon_final cartoonFrom the March-April 2015 issue of News & Letters

Chicago—Five Nuclear Energy Information Service of Chicago (NEIS) activists, some wearing white hazmat suits, protested nuclear power outside a downtown City Club luncheon here on Jan. 27.

The sidewalk action filled the day’s irony quota by begging for money for the nation’s major nuclear corporation. “Alms for Exelon!” was the cry. “Donate $100,000 to save Exelon. We’ll take your money here and now!” We failed to collect a single penny.

Inside, panelists boosting the “benefits” of nuclear power spoke to well-dressed, briefcase-toting invitees.

We were doing this to increase awareness that Exelon, a company which netted $1.16 billion on revenues of $23.5 billion from all of its energy holdings in 2013, is in the red on six nuclear power plants in Illinois, and is threatening to close them and eliminate people’s jobs unless Illinois can give them $580 million.

At the luncheon inside, Carol Browner, the former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator and a person with high credentials as an environmentalist, was one of the speakers who carried water for the nuclear industry’s foundering finances.

A Chicago Tribune article noted, “With 6% of nuclear power in the U.S. under financial threat, nuclear proponents are attempting to win over environmental activists. Who better to send the message that nuclear power is a clean form of power and worth saving than Browner, who changed her mind and began advocating for nuclear power in 2011.”

Browner saying that nuclear power plants (NPPs) don’t emit CO2 does not change their huge “carbon footprint.”


This is the second time citizens have been asked to bail out Exelon. In the mid to late 1990s, when Illinois and other states deregulated electric power, Exelon was included in a national coerced rescue of about $110 billion—a gift from an unsuspecting public, including Illinois tax- and rate-payers. Now they are coercing the legislature for another bailout.

Since the beginning of nuclear power during WWII, taxpayer money supported the research necessary to conceive of nuclear power plants. When “Atoms for Peace” came along, the public gifted private corporations with new NPPs they could use to sell electricity back to the public.

“Clean, safe, too cheap to meter” became “Unspeakably filthy; prone to gargantuan, medium and small accidents, and too costly to matter.”

Nuclear power is a financial albatross. No amount of taxpayer or ratepayer subsidy over the last 60 years has been able to reduce its costs. On the contrary, they continue to balloon. The only conclusion to reach is that nuclear power makes no economic sense.


With an increase in extremely hot days on the horizon, climate change could increase electricity demand in the Chicago area, according to The Risky Business Project. In the summer of 1988, drought, high temperatures and low river volumes forced Commonwealth Edison to reduce power by 30% or shut down some of the reactors in Illinois’ Dresden and Quad Cities plants. “That was the first wake-up call that plants would be vulnerable in a climate-disrupted world,” said David Kraft, director of NEIS .

“Good policy for Illinois can’t have nuclear cannibalize limited resources in the energy landscape,” said Becky Stanfield, Natural Resources Defense Council’s policy director of the Midwest, following the City Club luncheon. “That is doubly true because no matter how much money gets thrown at these plants, they are going to retire—and now is time to invest in the resources that will replace them.”

“Exelon is asking our state legislature to provide hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize its fleet of Illinois nuclear plants,” NEIS member Maureen Headington said in a statement submitted at the event. “Why should Illinois taxpayers be compelled to subsidize an industry that is too risky for Wall Street?”


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