Nuclear Renaissance Dealt Blow by South Texas Project Troubles

A critical court ruling today rang the first chime in what could be the death knell of the so-called “nuclear renaissance,” starting with the failed expansion of the South Texas Project (STP).

This afternoon’s ruling by 408th District Court Judge Larry Noll that CPS Energy can safely withdraw from the proposed STP expansion project without losing all its investment offers the utility and the city of San Antonio the cue they’ve been waiting for to exit the national nuclear stage. Combined with the NRG Energy CEO’s announcement during a shareholder and press conference call this morning that NRG would “wind down the project as quickly and economically as possible” if CPS withdraws or STP does not receive federal loan guarantees, this news marks a major blow to those who claim nuclear power is a viable alternative to fossil fuel energy. The expansion project calls for two new nuclear reactors at a site with two existing reactors.

slide 8 of NRG's "STP 3&4 Nuclear Project and CPS Litigation" presentation given at shareholder and media conference call Friday, January 29, 2010 8:00 a.m. ET

These events give credence to the contention made over the past five years by opponents of nuclear power that it is a needlessly expensive and risky way to meet future energy needs.. In less than a year, the price of the STP nuclear expansion ballooned from around $5 billion to more than $18 billion. Given this case study of nuclear power’s failure, we must call into question the federal government’s decision to increase federal loan guarantees to support oversized, untenable projects that are already proving too risky for private investors.

Public Citizen calls on both CPS Energy and NRG Energy to stop throwing good money after bad with their nuclear expansion plans and halt the project. Thankfully, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro intervened by putting the project on hold before costs jumped too far out of San Antonio’s reach. Given the court’s announcement that the city’s interests are protected, we hope San Antonio will take the next responsible step and bow out entirely.

Statement of Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office


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