The Seabrook nuclear power plant construction project is an unqualified financial disaster. It simultaneously threatens its chief owner, the Public Service Co. of New Hampshire (PSNH) with bankruptcy and the company's electricity customers with huge rate increases. The fifteen-year history of the project is reviewed to identify "what went wrong?"

The review suggests that the basic problem has been mismanagement by both PSNH and by government regulators. A three-year regulatory imbroglio over the environmental effects of the plant's cooling system was extremely costly in the mid-1970s.

By the time this problem was belatedly resolved, the project had begun to outstrip the financial resources of its owners. These resources were seriously weakened by a political battle over how to pay for construction costs.

By the end of the 1970s, the risks of proceeding with Seabrook were beginning to exceed the benefits. PSNH management, however, chose to accept these risks, in effect betting their company that the project could be completed.

Underlying many of Seabrook's problems are certain federal nuclear regulatory policies and practices whose roots go all the way back to the Eisenhower administration. These policies are also briefly reviewed.



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