Radioactive ‘Economic Development’

Why shouldn’t New Mexico pick winners and losers in the marketplace — i.e., engage in “economic development”?

The theoretical reasons are many, but for a real-world example, read up on the billion-dollar boondoggle that was once “heralded as the beginning of a renaissance for America’s nuclear power industry.”

South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper have scrapped their plans for Units 2 and 3 of the Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station. The “less-than-glamorous end to an endeavor that was supposed to usher in a new age of nuclear power in the United States” is bad for ratepayers, bad for construction workers, and it’s prompted an investigation by the Palmetto State’s attorney general. (A special session could be on the way.)

What does all this have to do with New Mexico? In 1999, the legislature created a GRT deduction for revenue “from selling uranium hexafluoride and from providing the service of enriching uranium may be deducted from gross receipts.” The perk was a giveaway to URENCO, a European consortium with a sizable share of the global market for enrichment services.

URENCO’s facility was built in Eunice. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony in 2010, former Sen. Pete Domenici “was introduced as ‘the godfather of the nuclear renaissance in the United States.'”

Well, “the nuclear renaissance in the United States” is kaput. Meanwhile, Spain’s shutting down the Santa Maria de Garona station. South Korea’s new president plans to close his country’s atomic plants. Germany’s ditching nukes. Heck, even France “has pledged to reduce its reliance on nuclear from 78% of electricity generation to 50% by 2025.”

Obviously, Errors of Enchantment wishes the best for URENCO’s New Mexico workers, and hopes that their employer remains economically viable. But the future’s looking more than a little iffy for nuclear. As for the pols who touted uranium enrichment as a growth industry for New Mexico … don’t expect any mea culpas.

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