Statement: $6 billion in subsidies for distressed nuclear plants are misguided

Public funds would be better spent advancing efficiency and renewable energy
For immediate release

WASHINGTON –  Tapping into $6 billion in subsidies passed as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Department of Energy launched a program on Tuesday to bail out the owners and operators of money-losing nuclear power plants. The bailout represents the largest federal investment aimed at saving financially distressed nuclear reactors in United States history. Applications for the civil nuclear credit program are in the form of sealed bids. The award in the first year maxes out at $1.2 billion but could be less.

When President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package was under debate in Congress in July, 2021, U.S. PIRG, Environment America and other members of the Green Scissors coalition panned nuclear credits as wasteful spending. In March, U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Environment America Research & Policy Center joined other environmental and consumer organizations in submitting comments to the U.S. Department of Energy urging them to incorporate safeguards and transparency to prevent corporate fraud and abuse.

In response to the Biden Administration’s opening of the bidding process, Environment America Research & Policy Center’s Senior Director of the Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy Johanna Neumann released the following statement:

“The civil nuclear credit program props up aging nuclear reactors when those taxpayer funds could be better spent building an efficient energy system powered primarily by clean renewable resources like wind and solar. It’s disappointing to see uneconomical nuclear plants in line to receive record-breaking subsidies while common-sense energy efficiency programs, such as the Weatherization Assistance program, got only a fraction of as much federal support. Lawmakers in five states have already bailed out aging nuclear plants to the tune of billions of dollars in ratepayer funds. This industry will just keep coming to the trough as long as they are fed.” 

U.S. PIRG Environment Campaigns Director Matt Casale said:

“Billions of taxpayer dollars have already been wasted subsidizing nuclear power plants – their fuel, their construction, their accident liabilities and operations, and now we’re being asked to subsidize failing plants. In implementing the $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit program, put into law by Congress, the Department of Energy must carefully scrutinize requests to avoid spending taxpayer dollars on reactors that are dirty, dangerous and don’t deliver. If the best environmental outcome can be secured without spending our tax dollars to bail out a failing nuclear plant, then those tax dollars should not be spent.”