Cry Me A River Exelon

By Sue Prent

Who is providing for whom? The federal government has allowed nuclear plant operators to expect American taxpayers to foot the bill to build their facilities, subsidize their insurance to the advantage of their investors, and sympathize with their complaints that clean renewables are enjoying too much support in the energy marketplace. Meanwhile, we, the people, are supposed to ignore the dirty, dangerous fuel sourcing practices of the nuclear industry, the even more hazardous, unresolved issue of nuclear waste management, and the overarching potential for terrorist exploitation.

Not content with its lot, now that holding a federal golden ticket isn’t enough to make nuclear profitable, nuclear energy corporation Exelon is taking its crybaby act to the Illinois legislature.

Since it operates six nuclear plants in the state, employing thousands of sensitive voters, the energy giant must think it holds a good hand for blackmail, because Exelon is threatening to close three of those nukes if it doesn’t get a mandated bump in consumer pricing.

As the market price for nuclear power electricity continues to decline, the cost of the essential ingredient, uranium, has coincidentally begun to climb. Now Exelon wants the Illinois legislature to bail them out…or else.

It appears that the piteous tale of corporate greed has another side, and the cavalry has already quietly ridden to the rescue.

PJM Interconnection, the Valley Forge, Pa.-based regional power-grid operator for all or parts of 13 states including northern Illinois, on Dec. 3 approved changes to the way electricity generators are compensated for their promise to deliver during peak-demand periods. The changes, which are subject to approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, will benefit Chicago-based Exelon more than any other power company in the 13-state region, analysts say.”

Put simply, for the privilege of operating five of its six nuclear reactors in Illinois, Exelon will earn a bonus of $560 Million in extra revenue in 2018, when the change takes effect.

Cry me a river, Exelon!

Meanwhile, the NRC has discounted the value of life for American citizens further in order to ease financial pressure on the poor beleaguered nuclear industry.

"If you wrap your new car around a tree beside the interstate, the U.S. government values your life at $9 million. If you’re at risk from a nuclear accident, you’re priced at just $3 million."

And why, pray tell, would the Nuclear REGULATORY Commission do such a thing?

“Using this low value has a significant effect on nuclear plant license renewals and new reactor approvals,” said Ed Lyman, a Washington-based physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Nuclear plants are not required to add safety systems that the NRC deems too expensive for the value of the lives they could save.”

That’s right folks: the value of human life has just been financially discounted so that nuke operators don’t have to worry too much about our safety.

Imagine Uncle Sam paraphrasing Bob Dylan:

“When you ain’t worth nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose.”

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