By Sam McCracken                12/2/1988
           From National Review, 24 June 1988, p. 14

           [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 10602PANC]

   Late last  month, the  people of  New York  State got  quite a
bargain:  the  Shoreham  nuclear-power   plant  on  Long  Island,
complete and almost ready to  run, a certified $5.3-billion value
for only one dollar.
   If you wonder why the  plant's owner, the Long Island Lighting
Company  (Lilco), was  willing to  sell at  such a  discount, the
answer can be found in that  phrase ``almost ready to run.''  All
Shoreham lacks  is an  operating license,  for which  it has been
waiting  since  its  completion  in  1984.   It  doesn't  have an
operating license because the State of New York and its creature,
Suffolk  County,  have refused  to  take part  in  developing the
emergency-evacuation plans that  are a requisite  to securing the
license from  the Nuclear  Regulatory Commission  (NRC).  Earlier
this year, it looked as if the NRC had finally lost patience with
the  persistent nonfeasance  of the  local authorities  and would
grant the  license without  their participation;  but this relief
came too late.
   Crushed by the burden of debt  incurred in building a plant it
could not use,  Lilco settled for  a deal under  which, through a
huge tax deduction,  the federal taxpayers will  ante up for part
of its losses, and its customers will take care of the rest.
   Shoreham was  in deep  trouble long  before the  state and the
county went  on their  sit-down strike.   Its construction  was a
remarkable  example  of  delay  in  an  industry  where  delay is
routine.  It was ordered in 1967,  but did not get a construction
license until 1973.   (By contrast, the  Millstone Point II plant
across Long Island Sound, ordered  the same year as Shoreham, got
its construction permit three  years earlier.)  Building Shoreham
took 11 years.  (Millstone Point  II was completed in five.)  And
finally, building Shoreham, difficult as  it was, was easier than
operating it, which turned out to be impossible.
   Meanwhile in Connecticut, Millstone Point II cost $424 million
and, by  the time  Shoreham was  completed, had  already paid for
itself  by  fuel  savings,  which  now  total  approximately $700
   Shoreham  proved  so  expensive   for  a  number  of  reasons,
including   management    failures,   leaden-handed   regulation,
environmentalist guerrilla  tactics, and  the malevolence  of the
local governments.  All  of these operated  through delay.  Delay
ensured  that  the  plant was  constructed  through  a  period of
swinging inflation  and swinging  interest rates.   (Shoreham has
been costing Lilco upwards of $1  million a day in interest.)  It
cost $4.8 billion more than Millstone Point II.
   The final and fatal delay was the most unnecessary of all, the
delay in  the operating license.   This delay was  not imposed by
the   authorities  responsible   for   ensuring  the   safety  of
nuclear-power plants  -- those  whose supervision  has meant that
not a single member of the public has been injured.  They had not
concluded that Shoreham was unsafe to operate.  Rather, the local
authorities had yielded to anti-nuclear hysteria.
   Nuclear power is held  to a standard of  safety which no other
industrial technology could possibly meet.  If the standards were
generalized,  tankers carrying  liquefied  natural gas  could not
enter our  harbors.  Semiconductor  factories could  not operate.
And  indeed, cola-fired  power plants,  most  of which  emit more
radiation  than  is  permitted  for  nuclear  plants,  could  not
   Nuclear power  has been  meeting this  standard.  But Governor
Cuomo and  his allies have  devised something  new: an infinitely
high standard.
   Speaking  some  years  ago about  the  financial  prospects of
Lilco, Governor Cuomo compassionately remarked, ``Let them take a
bath.  They're a  private corporation.''  In  the event, the bath
will be taken  by practically everyone  but Lilco.  It  will be a
crowded tub.  Lilco's customers and the federal taxpayers will be
there.   So will  all the  inhabitants of  Long Island,  who will
suffer from unreliable sources of electricity.  And since some of
the  replacement electricity  for Shoreham  will be  generated by
burning more coal, which kills people through air pollution, some
of the people in the tub will be not merely clean but dead.
   The  nuclear  industry is  in  a mess  in  America, especially
compared  to  countries  like France,  where  55  percent  of the
electricity comes from the  atom.  Some of the  blame must got to
the regulators, who,  among other things,  have ensured that each
plant  must  be custom-designed  and  custom-built, incorporating
hundreds of design changes over  the period of construction.  And
a  great deal  of  blame must  go  to the  anti-nuclear movement,
which, unable to make nuclear power illegal, has done what it can
to make it uneconomical.  To this, the New York State and Suffolk
County authorities  have added  civil disobedience  by government
   They already have  emulators to the  north: Michael Dukakis is
trying to  kill the Seabrook  plant with his  own sit-down strike
over  emergency planning.   Most of  the politicians  involved in
these tactics will have moved up  or out when the bills come due,
but their names should be remembered for the history books.

[More: IEEE  Spectrum, Vol. 24,  No. 11  (November 1987), Special
report: the Shoreham saga.]

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