Thursday, June 17, 2010

Friends of the Earth: Billions of Dollars in Tax Breaks for Each New Reactor Under Kerry-Lieberman Wipe Out Risk for Utilities Already Benefiting From Massive Loan Guarantees

/USNewswire/ -- The nuclear industry could end up facing no risk under massive tax break subsidies in the Kerry-Lieberman climate bill, according to an important new analysis conducted for Friends of the Earth by the research organization Earth Track. These tax breaks totaling $9.7 billion to $57.3 billion (depending on the type and number of reactors) would come on top of the Kerry-Lieberman measure's lucrative $35.5 billion addition to the more than $22.5 billion in loan guarantees already slated for nuclear power.

Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica said: "Doling out an additional $1.3-$3 billion in tax breaks per new reactor means the industry would be at the table playing almost entirely with taxpayer money. Industry will have little to lose when a reactor goes belly up. While taxpayers are bankrolling the industry's nuclear gamble they would share in none of the reactor's financial returns. In fact, all taxpayers will receive if the reactors are built is responsibility for disposing of the waste. By contrast, investors stand to make billions with no risk should their reactor gambit goes belly up and enter bankruptcy."

Earth Track Founder Doug Koplow said: "These substantial tax breaks for new reactors greatly impede market access for competing energy sources and worsen the already substantial risks to taxpayers from a nuclear build-out. As has clearly been shown in U.S. mortgage markets, the likelihood of bad financial decisions rises sharply if only other people's capital is at risk. Kerry-Lieberman's nuclear tax breaks do just this by replacing investor equity with taxpayer money, and allowing investment tax credits to be claimed even before the reactor is operating. The provision to recover credits in the event a reactor is cancelled or suspended is unlikely to be effective in the most likely cause of termination - a bankruptcy due to poor economics."

The memo evaluates three tax break subsidies, describing how they work and estimating their subsidy value to recipients in the nuclear power sector:

-- 5-year accelerated depreciation period for new nuclear power plants
(Kerry-Lieberman section 1121).
-- Investment tax credit (ITC) for nuclear power facilities (K-L section
1122) and the related grants for qualified nuclear power facility
expenditures in lieu of tax credits (K-L section 1126).
-- Modification of credit for production from advanced nuclear power
facilities (K-L section 1124).

According to the Earth Track analysis:
-- The K-L tax breaks would be worth billions per reactor. The new
subsidies will be worth between $1.3 billion and nearly $3.0 billion
on a net present value per new reactor. This is equivalent to between
15 and 20 percent of the total all-in cost of the reactors, as
projected by industry. In fact, the new nuclear tax break subsidies
would be worth 15 to more than 50 percent of the expected market value
of power the plants will produce. This is over and above the many
other subsidies the nuclear projects would already receive.
-- The new K-L tax breaks will undermine equity requirements of the
nuclear loan guarantee program. In theory, the current rules require
investors to hold a 20 percent equity stake in the new project. A key
goal of this requirement is to ensure investors have a strong interest
in the long-term success of the venture. However, the K-L bill would
in effect allow investors to recover funds equal to this equity share
within the first few years of plant operation. Financial risks from
project failure would then rest almost entirely with taxpayers.
-- Total tax subsidies to new reactors could reach tens of billions of
dollars from K-L's two main tax breaks alone. The national cost of
K-L's tax provisions can be benchmarked by evaluating two build-out
scenarios: six reactors, matching the number likely to be supported
under K-L's expanded nuclear loan guarantee pool; and 22 reactors,
matching the number going through NRC licensing as of May 2010. As not
all reactors will be the same type, the calculations assume half are
AP1000s and half Areva EPRs. Under a six-reactor scenario, K-L will
add $9.7 billion to $15.6 billion in tax subsidies to nuclear power.
Under a 22-reactor scenario, the net present value of subsidies on
offer just through 5-year depreciation and ITCs reaches $35.7 billion
to $57.3 billion. Neither of these other subsidies have any national
caps under Kerry-Lieberman.

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