And The Award for Biggest Taxpayer Ripoff Goes To?

This blog was written by Sara Barczak, former Regional Advocacy Director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, with contributions by Jeannie McKinney, former SACE Communications Coordinator.

Guest Blog | February 28, 2013 | Energy Policy, Nuclear


Whether or not you joined in the hype surrounding the Oscars earlier this week, we’ve got one award show we promise you don’t want to miss. While most awards honor the best and the brightest, today we highlight a special award that honors exactly the opposite. In a segment that would most appropriately be called, “Guess Who’s Wasting Your Money Now?” Taxpayers for Common Sense presented their not-so-coveted “The Golden Fleece” award this week to the Department of Energy’s Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) for their outstanding ability to waste millions of taxpayer dollars in the blink of an eye.

The Golden Fleece: Why You Don’t Want One
The Golden Fleece” is awarded when a project so exemplifies wasted taxpayer dollars – instead of investments worthy of those limited resources – that this independent taxpayer protection group feels compelled to focus extra public attention on an issue.

Past Golden Fleece recipients include:

– Representative Don Young for his $315 million “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska,

– The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) for their $15 billion/yr attempt at risk management education for crops, and

– Congressman Ed Whitfield for drawing up the $200 million/yr Waterways are Vital Economy, Energy, Efficiency, and Environment Act of 2012.

But with a price tag for initial spending over $450 million, SMRs are easily the most impressive of the Golden Fleece recipients to date.

What makes SMRs so spectacularly unaffordable?
Small modular reactors are new reactor designs
, not yet certified, that would produce less than 300 megawatts of electrical output. In February of 2010, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a call to would-be small reactor builders inquiring whether they would apply for permits, licenses and/or certifications in the near future. By the end of 2012, the Department of Energy (DOE) is budgeted to spend $452 million over the next five years, starting with $67 million the first year. The 2013 budget request is for another $65 million.

More unfortunately for our region, SMRs are currently being pursued by utilities already mired in a complex mix of costly, risky nuclear endeavors, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority — who is aiming to build SMRs at their formerly abandoned Clinch River breeder reactor site located in Tennessee, and by the nuclear industry and their proponents at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

George takes an SMR-powered flight.

Meet George Jetson…
As SACE stated yesterday upon announcement of The Golden Fleece “winner,” this award should be a wake up call to those who champion such ill-defined projects. Small modular reactors represent a “Jetsons-like” cartoon-projection of nuclear power’s future, as it is highly unlikely these reactors will be cost effective and, as indicated by the Golden Fleece award, we are already seeing large amounts of taxpayers’ money being unwisely spent on this wildly speculative project. Senators Corker and Alexander and the rest of our Congressional delegation should be consistent in their stated responsibility to manage taxpayers’ money wisely. If anything should be sequestered by the federal government, it should be the pursuit of SMRs at the expense of U.S. taxpayers.

We’re glad to see that other organizations are helping call attention to the ridiculous investment the DOE is proposing in SMRs. Take a minute today to learn more about these stellar award winners, and see for yourself why they are truly a waste of our hard-earned, American tax dollars.

Guest Blog
My Profile