EXCLUSIVE: Gov’t Red Tape Costs Every Nuclear Plant $63 Million Annually


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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Red tape and government bureaucracy is killing the U.S. nuclear industry by costing the average power plant $63 million annually, according to a new study by the American Action Forum.

The study found that government regulations cost the nuclear industry $15.7 billion or about $219 million per power plant. Most of this cost was in complying with government regulations about the safe disposal of nuclear waste, but government mandated paperwork alone accounted for $63.3 million annually.

”Nuclear power faces growing regulatory hurdles that do not reflect the improving safety and innovation within the industry,” Philip Rossetti, an energy data analyst involved in the research, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “A good federal policy should be focused on addressing the more significant issues, like licensing a nuclear waste repository, rather than just doubling down on regulation.”

When the costs of disposing of nuclear waste are excluded, AAF found that each year nuclear power plants pay $8.6 million in paperwork costs, $22 million in Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) fees and $32.7 million in regulatory liabilities. Nuclear experts previously told TheDCNF that extremely high regulatory burdens are killing the U.S. nuclear industry’s ability to innovate.

AAF reviewed profitability data and found that for 6 nuclear power plants, regulatory burdens exceeded their profit margins. For another 15 plants regulatory burdens exceeded the nominal U.S. corporate tax rate, meaning these reactors spent more on government-required paperwork then they paid in taxes.

The U.S. currently operates 61 commercially operated nuclear power plants, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The research concludes that the federal government is putting an onerous regulatory burdens placed on the nuclear industry that is stifling innovation and harming the U.S.’s overall energy mix. AAF’s report concludes that there is “little doubt regulatory costs are one factor contributing to the retirement of nuclear facilities across the nation.”

The study states that the heavy regulations are likely the cause of a slowdown in the construction of many new U.S. reactors and the early decommissioning of several others. The average age for American nuclear reactors is 35, making them nearly obsolete by modern design standards and near the end of their 40-year operating licenses. Sixteen American nuclear reactors are more than 42 years old.

AAF estimated last year that U.S. nuclear plants spent an estimated $4.2 million to meet government paperwork requirements and another $4.4 million to pay government-mandated security staff.. In addition to paperwork requirement costs, the average plant spends approximately $14 million on various government fees.

Heavy government regulations combined with polices intended to support wind and solar power make it incredibly difficult to profitably operate a nuclear power plant, according to a study published last October by libertarian R Street Institute. Eventually, these regulations will cause nuclear reactors to shut down, which would increase carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Cost isn’t the only factor identified complicating nuclear power expansion.

Getting regulatory approval from the NRC to build a new reactor can take up to 25 years, while building a new plant by itself only takes about 10 of those years. The NRC requires so much paperwork from the nuclear power providers that the average plant requires 86 full-time employees just to go through it all.

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