Because nuclear power plants are so expensive to build, in most parts of the world they have to be financed or subsidised by governments. By promoting nuclear power as green and a solution to global warming, the nuclear industry hopes to ensure government financial support for the industry. Various industry coalitions are lobbying for government support for nuclear power as part of any international global warming agreement.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) calculates that in the US nuclear power costs 9 or 10 cents per kWh delivered compared to 6 or 7 cents for wind power, 2 or 3 cents for energy efficiency improvements, and 3 or 4 cents for recovered heat co-generation.
The high cost of building nuclear power plants and the public opposition to them because of safety concerns, has meant that no new plants have been built in the US since 1979 when there was an accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant (pictured). However industry lobbying and public relations efforts are turning public opinion around. In 2009 a Gallup Poll found that 59 percent favoured the use of nuclear power.
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) has 'nearly 350 members in 19 countries' and represents the nuclear industry providing "a unified industry voice before the U.S. Congress, executive branch agencies and federal regulators, as well as international organizations and venues". It employs sixteen registered lobbyists and retains fifteen lobbying firms and lobbying consultants.
Last year , NEI lobbyists visited thirteen federal agencies, as well as both houses of Congress. NEIs lobbying disclosure forms show that the organization helped shape more than twenty bills in 2007, from the Nuclear Fuel Management and Disposal Act to the Tax Technical Corrections Act to the Energy Independence and Security Act. All in all, NEI spent nearly $45 million on industry coordination, policy development, communications, and governmental affairs in 2006, according to its most recent financial report.
Energy and electricity firms also lobby individually. Following a decade of campaigning by the nuclear industry, along with $600 million on lobbying and $63 million in campaign contributions, the Obama administration's 2010 budget proposal included a $36 billion increase in loan guarantees for the construciton of new nuclear power plants.
What is more 12 states have introduced legislation or regulations to facilitate nuclear power construction and '17 companies and consortia are considering building more than 30 nuclear power plants'.
In 2003 the Blair government white paper on energy concluded that nuclear power was not economically attractive and the Minister stated that any investment in nuclear energy would detract from investment in energy efficiency and renewables. Five years later, the government is keen to have a nuclear renaissance: "Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has called for 1,000 new nuclear power stations to be built around the world to meet global energy needs with 30 reactors opening every year for the next 30 to 40 years".
"charm offensive" coordinated by the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) in 2005 to get the media, politicians and opinion makers on board the nuclear bandwaggon. In a series of meetings with selected audiences and carefully chosen speakers the nuclear industry sought to get nuclear power back on the political agenda:
From being a piece of history, the nuclear industry - a fading dinosaur that has wasted billions and left a toxic legacy that will cost billions more - is pushing itself back into the headlines, rebranded as the only source of the cheap, secure and clean energy demanded by modern Britain. The real "green" alternative ...
Keith Parker from the NIA and Supporters of Nuclear Energy (SONE) also played a major role in forming the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Nuclear Energy in the Commons in 2003 which aims "'to encourage discussion among MPs and peers from across the political spectrum with an interest in nuclear issues and to provide a forum for the exchange of information and views between Parliamentarians and representatives of the nuclear and energy industries."
In preparation for this campaign nuclear firms had recruited "high-powered new media directors, political advisers and public affairs companies" and had been successful in getting nuclear power back into the news. They sought not only to persuade the media and politiians but also corporate leaders with scare stories about energy shortages that would arise from coal plants having to close down because they didn't meet EU pollution standards and existing nuclear power plants reaching the end of their lives. They argued that wind was unreliable and natural gas dependent on foreign markets.
What the industry was seeking were government subsidies and a Security of Supply Obligation that would ensure that nuclear power plants would not have to compete on a level playing field with other power plants.
In addition to lobbying from the British nuclear industry, the British government is subject to pressure from the US. In 2004 Tony Blair admitted that he was being lobbied by the US to consider nuclear power as the way to reduce greenhouse emissions.
In 2008 the Independent on Sunday newspaper reported that senior civil servants working in the nuclear consultations and liabilities unit at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) had been extensively and lavishly wined and dined by the nuclear industry.
FORATOM. Its purpose is to promote nuclear energy and lobby members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and key policy makers in the European Commission (EC). Its members include 17 national nuclear associations and almost 800 firms. In 2007 it spent $1.6 million euros on lobbying the EU.
FORATOM was able to garner enough MEPs in 2005 to delete an amendment to a regulation that stated that 'reducing global emissions must not lead to other threats' and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation (JI) clauses of the Kyoto Protocol 'must continue to exclude nuclear activities'. The nuclear industry would also like to see the mandatory renwable energy target replaced with one that specifies carbon neutral technologies, so that nuclear can be included.
The largest nuclear firms have 22 lobbyists accredited with the European Parliament and also hire consultants, public relations and public affairs firms to promote their interests as the occasion arises.
European Energy Forum (EEF) which is a club of MEPs and businesses, including Shell, Total, ExxonMobil and various nuclear firms whose annual budget of over a million euros is mainly supplied by business members. It holds dinners (see picture), conferences and seminars and apys for MEPs to visit nuclear power plants in other nations.
A confidential source who regularly attends their meetings confirmed that discussions which start at the EEF usually end up at the Parliament. He went on to describe the EEF as “the submarine of the energy industry.”
The other group is the Forum for the Future of Nuclear Energy which is open to the public and attended by MEPs and nuclear industry personnel. Its agenda is normally set by FORATOM and speakers are usually FORATOM members.