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North Anna nuclear debate is good--as long as it's based on fact
Facts--not diatribes--are needed in nuclear-power debate

Date published: 3/10/2005

RICHMOND--In his recent letter to the editor, Paxus Calta ["Want the whole story on nuclear power? You pay, big time," Feb. 25] quotes me as saying, "We're here because we don't think the media are telling the whole story."

Linking my statement to "anti-market subsidies," he presents the typical propaganda and skewed data of anti-nuclear extremists that I was criticizing. He quotes me out of context, disingenuously, to make his point.

My assertion was that the benefits of nuclear power receive short shrift in the public discourse on this country's energy needs. Yes, the nuclear industry receives research and development funds from the federal government, but so does every energy technology.

The 2006 Department of Energy research and development budget provides $1.2 billion for renewables and conservation, $800 million for clean coal, and $510 million for nuclear. These levels reflect the growing awareness that the United States will need a diverse generation portfolio to meet increasing demand, to reduce emissions, and to move closer to energy independence.

Some technologies also receive production tax credits. For example, the current tax credit for wind power is $18 per megawatt-hour produced. Currently, no such production tax incentive exists for the nuclear industry.

However, in order to assist in overcoming financial concerns and uncertainty in using a new licensing process, some have suggested that the first few new nuclear plants be provided with a limited set of incentives. The most recent proposal capped support at $125 million for up to 6,000 MW for the first eight years. This formula would equate to about 35 cents per MWh.

Calta's description of government support also distorts the Price-Anderson Act. First, nuclear operators do carry their own property insurance. Second, the Price-Anderson Act allows commercial nuclear operators to purchase "group" liability insurance that would be used only in the case of a major accident.

For both property and liability insurance, commercial nuclear operators pay 100 percent of the premiums; taxpayers and the government contribute nothing.

Since its inception in 1957, the Price-Anderson Act has become a model for other industries and activities that our society deems essential, such as oil production, agriculture, banking, and vaccine production. If we were to eliminate all such programs, many people would lose their homes, children would not be vaccinated, and food and oil prices would skyrocket.


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