Thursday, April 29, 2010

So Much for the Free Market

Public Service Company of NH (our state’s largest electric utility) is hoping to increase our electric rates. Their primary reason for this rate hike is that consumers have been using less electricity. Unitil Corp. is doing the same thing in the Seacoast area. They want a 9% increase, for the same reason. Remember those golden days of yesteryear when if you used less, you paid less? We should have realized those days were over when the phone company started tacking on a $3 monthly charge if you didn’t make enough long distance calls.

A biodiesel refinery in Nashua is awaiting IRS approval before finally beginning production. Batchelder Biodiesel Refineries is located in an old mill building near downtown Nashua. They will be turning “brown grease” from restaurants into biofuel. This means old fryolator oil will be turned into something useful, as opposed to going to the landfill. This is the kind of project we should be seeing more of. We have a vast, untapped, grease mine in our area.

The NRC finally had a public hearing about VT Yankee last week in Brattleboro. They were not welcomed with open arms. The general sentiment seemed to be that the NRC is an utter failure as an agency that is supposed to regulate nuclear power plants. This is true. They are. In the case of VT Yankee, the NRC seems to be trying hard to protect Entergy (the owner of the plant) and aid them in their ongoing attempts to keep leaks and their causes a secret. Entergy lied about having buried pipes at VT Yankee, but the buried pipe lie has also been used at the troubled Oyster Creek plant in NJ, and the Braidwood plant in Illinois.

The list of NRC failures is long. The folks at Beyond Nuclear have recently issued a report that documents 15 leaks from buried pipes at 13 different plants from March 2009 to April 2010. The report also shows that at least 102 reactors have had recurring radioactive leaks into the groundwater from 1963 to 2009. NH’s own Seabrook Station had a radioactive water leak (tritium) that was discovered in 1999. It was finally repaired in 2004. Seabrook Station has had other problems in the last decade. In 2005, we learned that the security fence surrounding the plant was inoperable. The perimeter intrusion detection system had not been correctly installed and was inoperable. The newly appointed Security Manager at the plant had no background in security, security guards (compensating for the lack of fence) worked excessive overtime, and the plant failed an NRC inspection and was declared inoperable, according to internal documents. As we all know, the plant was never shut down. Even though the plant failed the NRC inspection, and was declared inoperable – the NRC did not do the job of a regulatory agency, unless your idea of regulating means turning a blind eye to the situation and saying, “yeah, everything’s cool.” Florida Power and Light, a company that donates generously to NH campaigns, own Seabrook Station. They were one of former US Senator Bob Smith’s top 5 campaign donors, in fact. FPL also donated (albeit less generously) to Judd Gregg.

The reason we should all be concerned about the failure of the NRC as a regulatory agency is that Obama’s climate change/energy plan calls for the building of between 12 and 100 new nuclear power plants. Given the NRC’s already abysmal track record, we should be deeply concerned.

It is also interesting to note that the same forces that scream “socialism” at the slightest provocation have absolutely no problem with the socialist bailout of the nuke industry. Taxpayers subsidize the building of nuke plants, they subsidize the insurance of the plants, and the ratepayers/taxpayers subsidize the decommissioning and cleanup of the plants when they are finally retired. They also pay for the inflated cost of the power produced by these plants. The taxpayers do not see a return on this investment – since the profits go to the company and the shareholders. These same folks who are slavishly devoted to the free market don’t pay any attention to what that free market is telling them. The free market doesn’t support nuclear power. Until it does, the nuclear industry shouldn’t be getting socialist taxpayer bailouts.

"Taxpayers should not be held responsible for the failure of big business any longer. If a business is going to fail, not matter how big, let it fail." Frank Luntz , GOP slogan creator

This was published as an op-ed in the Conway Daily Sun April 30, 2010

© 2010 sbruce

1 comment:

CraftyVeggie said...

This article Susan exemplifies perfectly the ridiculous arguments continually made by The GOP and its members. Once Repubs raised their voices (or is it vices) against regulating Wall Street, I think we all were pretty much convinced of their anti-social stances and pro conglomerate support. As for PSNH I have not experienced any warm and fuzzy feelings toward them in many years. This includes their complete destruction of trees and green their contractors indulged in, removing so much unnecessary life we can now clearly see Rt16 from our kitchen window. Raising rates on us too? Is that insult to injury or perhaps now we just use our woodstove 12 months a year in place of all electrical tasks. The thought is becoming more attractive.