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?