Nuclear Power and the Lobbyists Behind It

A new investigation finds that the nuclear industry has spent millions of dollars over the past decade to sell the public and Congress on the virtues of new reactors.

| February 1, 2010

Nuclear Power Plant

Is nuclear energy a smart choice for the future? The amount of money lobbyists are spending to convince Congress and the public that nuclear power should be part of the next climate and energy bill may trigger a cloud of skepticism as you answer that question.


The nuclear industry claims that there is increased public support for nuclear power as a solution to climate change and some members of Congress are arguing that massive incentives for new nuclear reactors are critical to passing a climate and energy bill. Today, the Obama administration is expected to propose tripling the amount of loan guarantees to the industry to $54 billion and there are proposals in Congress to add billions more through a new "clean" energy fund and other incentives to support nuclear power expansion.   

Where did all this support for new nuclear reactors come from? Let’s follow the money.

Growing support for new nuclear power comes after an extensive decade-long campaign in which companies and unions related to the industry have spent more than $650 million on lobbying and campaign contributions from 1999 through 2008, according to a new analysis by former Los Angeles Times reporter Judy Pasternak, now with the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University. (To learn more, read Nuclear Energy Lobby Working Hard to Win Support.) In the first three quarters of 2009 alone, the nuclear energy industry spent $84 million lobbying Congress.

“In many ways, the nuclear power industry’s efforts to win support are a textbook case of how the influence game is played in Washington,” Pasternak reports. “Besides the money spent on lobbying and campaign contributions, the industry, led by the NEI (Nuclear Energy Institute), has created a network of allies who give speeches, quote one another approvingly and showcase one another on their websites. The effect is an echo chamber of support for nuclear power.”

Two of the industry’s celebrity spokespeople, former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and former Greenpeace activist Patrick Moore, have been stumping around the country, writing op-eds, and appearing on TV to extol the virtues of nuclear power as the co-directors of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition. They rarely, if ever, mention that the NEI created the coalition and is its sole funder.

todd reece
2/22/2010 12:45:33 PM

Ohhh and this: From the climate change lobby: "The Environmental Defense Fund says it spent about $40 million on direct climate advocacy, both domestically and internationally last year — about 40 percent of the organization’s budget." One enviro organization spent HALF as much as the nuc. INDUSTRY??? Look at the whole article: Use their tool to "See" who's lobbying.. .and select Nuclear.. I used $100,000 and nothing popped up for the nukes...

todd reece
2/22/2010 12:31:50 PM

continued from below: from TBI: GE’s specific lobbying issues included the “Climate Stewardship Act,” “Electric Utility Cap and Trade Act,” “Global Warming Reduction Act,” “Federal Government Greenhouse Gas Registry Act,” “Low Carbon Economy Act,” and “Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act.” It is ridiculous, and is an example of extremism if you think for a second you can replace the volume of coal produced power with wind or solar by themselves. It will take a combination of the different technologies in order to rip ourselves away from the fossil fuel known as oil.. Associated links and sources:

todd reece
2/22/2010 12:22:15 PM

follow the money, eh? 300 companies and 2340 lobbyists formed the "green Lobby" in 2008. Envir groups (non-$$$ money makers) have assets >1.5 Bln. Not a bad gig.... $84 million in comparison? Chump change. Do you have valid points about "left overs"? Yes. So what do the French do? Learn from them (did a right winger actually SAY that?)... From "Lobbyists from every industry are representing green interests in greater numbers every year, but the automakers and related industries are the ones who are showing tremendous growth and the greatest amount of money being spent on eco-concerns. "United States automakers and auto industry affiliates spent an additional $62.6 million dollars in recent years with GM being among the top ten spenders. Nissan was the top foreign spender in green lobby money for the same time frame." So car companies BY THEMSELVES, lobbying for green causes only, accounted for 2/3rds of the amount of funding that the Nuc. lobby dished out. Ohhh and the PAYOFF??? from the WSJ: "GE lobbyists pressed for grants, tax cuts or rebates aimed at businesses GE is engaged in, including provisions worth more than $80 billion for energy projects, appliances, health-care information systems and wind farms. GE would have to compete with rivals for a share of these grants. GE spent $7.55 million lobbying in the second quarter, a 34% increase from the year-earlier period and more than any other single company, according to federal data"

2/22/2010 12:23:39 AM

So the answer to reduce carbon emissions from coal and fossil fuel is to go nuclear where we have radioactive waste that the country has never developed a plan for long term storage. Instead of corporate welfare for an already existing industry, why not invest in R&D for renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal. When it comes down to it those are the only real viable long term solutions to energy, anything else is just a temporary band-aid. Why do we keep insisting on being so short sighted?

anita owen
2/20/2010 7:41:36 AM

Who knew so many DIMWITTED folks read Mother Earth News ! Nuclear is environmental destruction from the beginning. It takes TONS of mined earth to produce very small amounts of uranium...and that is just the beginning. I'll not bother saying more, it would be a waste of time.

melody sandberg_1
2/20/2010 6:58:43 AM

Please post any adverse ideas to Nuclear, I like to see both sides. I personally am opposed to Coal, our river here is Savannah are all polluted partially due to coal ash.

2/19/2010 11:42:34 PM

I also have conserns about waste managment, but if there truely is something that is safer and can produce nuclear energy then that is what should be used. I mean we are going to use nuclear power for energy not bombs right?

2/19/2010 10:35:04 PM

I cannot think of any other source OTHER than nuclear that has the potential to replace a significant amount of coal powered generation. Bring it on! If the French can do it we can. If we succeed at moving to electric cars we are going to need much more power generation capacity; it might as well be clean power like nuclear. Concurrently let's push Wind and Concentrated Solar Thermal power for two of the major long term solutions.

mark m.
2/19/2010 7:08:52 PM

Recycle nuclear fuel! The French do it, why can't oui?

marie shurts_2
2/19/2010 4:43:49 PM

Okay.. we get energy now.. but the waste management is extrodinarily expensive and goes on for years and years and years.. this is not a good alternative to coal.. at all!!! RENEWABLE ENERGIES that do not cause radioactive waste left to our future generations is what is needed and where our money and engineering should be spent. NOT nuclear!

dennis h
2/19/2010 10:03:16 AM

The sooner that we get more nuclear power plants the sooner we can start cuttung back on the coal burning power plants. I don't buy into the global warming fiction, but we certinly need to take care of our environment and nuclear plants will be much cleaner than our coal plants that we have now. Obama ran on the platform that we would have more clean nuclear plants, but he has not made any progress, just talk and empty promises.

richard demick_2
2/19/2010 8:30:17 AM

The January 2010 issue of Wired magazine talks about replacing uranium with safer, cheaper thorium as a nuclear fuel. It suggests thorium was dropped as a reactor fuel because it doesn't produce byproducts necessary to make nuclear bombs.

kevin steigner_1
2/19/2010 7:40:56 AM

Kind of reminds you of the GLOBAL Warming pundits!

dave ownby
2/19/2010 7:39:06 AM

I was stationed three times in Germany, and they have nuclean power plants. I am not aware of any accidents there, and we haven't had any since 3 mile island. We are using up our fossile fuels while polluting the atmosphere at the same time. Let's give it a chance if the technology is safe now.

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