Published on Friday, June 12, 2009 by The Guardian/UK
US Nuclear Industry Tries to Hijack Obama's Climate Change Bill
Republicans seek federal financing for 100 new reactors despite huge capital costs and unsolved problems of storing waste
by Suzanne Goldenberg
America's nuclear industry and its supporters in Congress have moved to hijack Barack Obama's agenda for greening the economy by producing a rival plan to build 100 new reactors in 20 years, and staking a claim for the money to come from a proposed clean energy development bank.
Steam billows from the cooling towers at Exelon's nuclear power generating station in
Republicans in the House of Representatives produced a spoiler version of the Democrats' climate change bill this week, calling for a doubling of the number of nuclear reactors in the
In the Senate, Republican leaders, including the former presidential candidate John McCain, also called this week for loan guarantees for building new reactors to rise from $18.5bn (£11.2bn) to $38bn. Other Republicans have called on the administration to underwrite the $122bn start-up costs of 19 nuclear reactors, whose applications are now under review by the department of energy.
"If you care about climate change ... 100 new nuclear power plants is the place to start," said Lamar Alexander, a Republican from
Another crucial element of the Republicans' "nuclear renaissance" are two rival proposals for a "clean energy bank" now before Congress. One version, under consideration by the Senate, envisages almost unlimited federal loan guarantees to encourage wind and solar power and, nuclear proponents hope, new reactors.
Ellen Vancko, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said: "The nuclear industry would like to be able to finance the next generation of nuclear reactors using the faith and credit of the
No new reactors have been ordered in 30 years, not least due to the challenges of raising $5bn-$12bn to build a new plant.
But the industry is hoping for a surge in orders for new reactors around the world and assurances from Obama's energy secretary, Steven Chu, of nuclear power's place in
Nuclear industry executives told Congress this week that 429 new nuclear plants were planned or under construction around the world. In the
Much of the push for nuclear power comes from the conservative south, which has more reactors than anywhere else in the
The campaign faces two challenges: the huge cost of construction and the lack of permanent storage for nuclear waste.
The Obama administration has blocked a 22-year project to dump waste from reactors in
Obama's $787bn economic recovery plan set aside $50bn for the nuclear industry but Democrats in Congress cut out the funds. Frustrated fans of nuclear power, such as McCain, accused Obama and
If Republican efforts in Congress for a nuclear energy bill and a clean energy bank fail, the
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2009
Donations can be sent to the
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs