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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Creeping Atomic Socialism

Attention William Simon, William F. Buckley, Milton Friedman, American Enter­- prise Institute and other economic conservatives! Why are you so calm before the gathering storm of atomic socialism?

WHERE IS your ideological fervor for free-market enterprise when giant mis­managed corporations are pushing Uncle Sam (alias the small taxpayer) to bail them out by socializing their nuclear fission losses?

In case you want more details about this burgeon­ing corporate welfare sys­tern, consider the following:

The atomic power indus­try was launched in 1956 when the electric utilities demanded arid received from Congress limited li­ability and taxpayer indem­nity under an insurance scheme known as the Price Anderson Act.

The potential risk of thou­sands of lives lost and bil­lions of dollars of property damage in an atomic power plant accident or sabotage was so catastrophic that the utilities required this guar­antee, which has been given to no other U.S. industry be­fore or since.

PRICE Anderson is up for another 10-year renewal in Congress right now, even though the utilities are hypocritically telling their customers that these plants are perfectly safe. If they are so safe, why aren’t they insurable on the pri­vate market and why do they need the shield of limited liability?

Westinghouse, mired in the crumbling “floating nu­clear plant” manufacturing project in Jacksonville, Fla., is pressing Frank Zarb of the Federal Energy Administration to buy four of these as yet unbuilt and untested facilities and lease them back to the utilities. “You can be socialistic, if it’s Westinghouse.” That’s $2 billion just for starters.

President Ford and Vice-President Rockefeller have proposed a $100 billion ener­gy subsidizer to salvage, in large part, the economical­ly disastrous nuclear power business. The industry is plagued increasingly by huge cost overruns, rocket­ing capital and uranium costs and frequent shut­downs due to quality control failures or accidents.

IT IS BURDENED by serious and acknowledged safety problems that re­main, unresolved, such as where to put the deadly radioactive waste for the next 200,000years. The en­tire $100 billion of the Rockefeller plan would be a drop in the atomic bucket. More like $1 trillion will be needed to shore up these packaged cancers in the next 25 years. What will the rest of the economy do for capital?

After federal uranium en­richment services have subsidized the industry for over 15 years, energy cor­porations have persuaded the White House to advance a proposal to Congress to provide up to $8 billion in federal guarantees for the launching of a private uranium enrichment indus­try.

Misleadingly described as a boost to free enter­prise, the White House cer­tainly did not highlight the fact that domestic investors like Exxon could only profit. For the taxpayer is expected to absorb any losses by these corpora­tions.

Zarb and Simon, his pred­ecessor as energy czar, are urging Congress to agree to more tax breaks for utili­ties in order to facilitate nu­clear power plant construc­tion. Many profitable utilities already pay no federal income taxes; Zarb and Simon want to make the bonanza apply to all of them for a long time.

OTHER recent develop­ments show the industry wanting the taxpayer to pay for guarding these far-flung atomic plants and the vehi­cles carrying deadly radio­active materials to and fro along the highways, rail­roads and waterways.

Taxpayers will be asked to pay for atomic fuel re­processing plants, such as the one being built at Barn­well, S.C. So, if they don’t join. the growing citizen movement against atomic power, consumers will con­tinue to pay twice — as rate payers of their electric bills and as taxpayers for atomic socialism. This is assuming no atomic catastrophe that would result in untold casualties.

More evidence and more specialists are showing that -atomic power is unsafe, uneconomic and unneces­sary. Business Week maga­zine recently headlined a cover story entitled, “Nu­clear Power Dims.” Nu­clear power also reduces over-all job opportunities when compared with a pro­gram of energy conserva­tion and solar and other forms of practical, abun­dant energy sources.

Are any economic con­servatives listening? Or do they require both an eco­nomic and radioactive crisis, born of a plutonium economy in the next genera­tion, to convince them?