Newsweek uncovers “Kentucky-Fried Politics”

We missed this when it came out, probably because we haven’t paid much attention to Newsweek since it became a digital-only publication. But with stories like this one, we’ll have to think about taking a look at Newsweek more regularly. And just because we missed it in late January doesn’t mean you should miss it now. Kentucky-Fried Politics is the story of how two powerful U.S. Senators, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and tea party advocate Rand Paul, teamed up to scam ratepayers in the Northwest by forcing Energy Northwest, part of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), to pay $700 million for enriched uranium–that BPA didn’t even need–that could have been purchased on the open market for $450 million. And if that weren’t bad enough, details hidden in the contracts could cause BPA to end up paying well over $1 Billion for the uranium.

This was all done to benefit the near-bankrupt U.S. Enrichment Corporation, which has closed its enrichment facility in Paducah, Kentucky. It not coincidentally kept about 1,000 workers on the payroll through the 2012 Congressional elections, though many lost their jobs shortly afterwards when the plant shut down. It also indirectly benefited another entity important to Kentucky, the Tennessee Valley Authority, which sold electricity to the Paducah plant–a very large (and very inefficient) user of electricity.

Meanwhile, a recent report prepared by an independent consultant for the Washington-Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility concluded that ratepayers would save as much as $1.7 Billion by closing Energy Northwest’s only nuclear reactor in Washington state. With deals like this going on, it’s not hard to imagine even greater savings by its shutdown.

And an interesting follow-up post by the Spokane Inlander on the controversy, including comments from Energy Northwest and the Inlander’s reply

And speaking of USEC’s Paducah Ky site, GE Hitachi says it wants to build a new laser uranium enrichment plant at the site. One has to wonder if the hidden hand of Sen. McConnell is behind this announcement too.

Michael Mariotte


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2 thoughts on “Newsweek uncovers “Kentucky-Fried Politics”

  1. Chuck Johnson, Director, Joint Task Force on Nuclear Power, Oregon/Washington PSR

    Any chance to read an article by David Cay Johnston is worth taking the time to do it. This was a crazy deal unless you are the executives and employees of the US Enrichment Corporation (aptly named). It looks like this bad deal may be the loose thread we were looking for to unravel the credibility of Energy Northwest and Bonneville on the economic viability of their aging, Fukushima-style GE boiling water reactor. Robert McCullough has been a canny advocate in addition to being a top flight economist. We hope to let you know more quickly about our next actions on this front in the future, Michael.

  2. Eiki

    A very real issue is TEPCO’s shaky history of orotapien in Japan. They have falsified safety data, tried to hide cracks located in multiple areas of multiple reactors, and even built the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactor on a chunk of land they knew contained a major fault line (while claiming no such fault line existed). A friend in Tokyo tells me that people in Japan just don’t trust the company at all. I just pulled this off of Wikipedia:On August 29, 2002, the government of Japan revealed that TEPCO was guilty of false reporting in routine governmental inspection of its nuclear plants and systematic concealment of plant safety incidents. All seventeen of its boiling-water reactors were shut down for inspection as a result. TEPCO’s president, Nobuya Minami, was later forced to resign, and the utility eventually admitted to two hundred occasions over more than two decades between 1977 and 2002, involving the submission of false technical data to authorities .[3] Upon taking over leadership responsibilities, TEPCO’s new president issued a public commitment that the company would take all the countermeasures necessary to prevent fraud and restore the nation’s confidence. By the end of 2005, generation at suspended plants had been restarted, with government approval.In 2007, however, the company announced to the public that an internal investigation had revealed a large number of unreported incidents. These included an unexpected unit criticality in 1978 and additional systematic false reporting, which hadn’t been uncovered during the 2002 inquiry. Along with scandals at other Japanese electric companies, this failure to ensure corporate compliance resulted in strong public criticism of Japan’s electric power industry and the nation’s nuclear energy policy. Again the company made no effort to identify those responsible.


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