Obama Administration to Provide Loan Guarantees For Nuclear Power

French Nuclear Power Plant

The AP is reporting that the Obama Administration is set to announce that it will provide loan guarantees for new American nuclear power plants.

The Obama administration’s planned loan guarantee to build the first nuclear power plant in the U.S in almost three decades is part of a broad shift in energy strategy to lessen dependence on foreign oil and reduce the use of other fossil fuels blamed for global warming.

President Barack Obama called for “a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants” in his Jan. 27 State of the Union speech and followed that by proposing to triple loan guarantees for new nuclear plants. He wants to use nuclear power and other alternative sources of energy in his effort to shift energy policy.

Obama in the coming week will announce the loan guarantee to build the nuclear power plant, an administration official said Friday. The two new Southern Co. reactors to be built in Burke, Ga., are part of a White House energy plan that administration officials hope will draw Republican support.

I am definitely all for this. Nuclear power is a much safer, cleaner source of energy than coal. This is long overdue.

h/t Dodd Harris

Image Credit: Sarah Elzas

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Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. john personna says:

    There are some good things to be said for nuclear power, but I don’t think loan guarantees can tip the balance against other negatives (consumers generally not liking nukes, and the huge capital requirements for plant construction).

  2. Franklin says:

    Just store the waste under the sites themselves rather than shipping them all over the country. Nobody is going to want to use the land for several millennia afterward anyway.

  3. PD Shaw says:

    So, we already had $38.5 billion in loan guarantees, reimbursement of permitting costs, fast-track permitting, pre-approval of standardized designs, joint government-private sector cost sharing programs, insurance against construction cost increases, and I’m probably missing something.

    When is someone going to notice that in a country with an existing coal infrastructure and low projected growth in electricity demand, nuclear power is too expensive per KWH to encourage new construction. I see only two things that change that: a substantial carbon tax that evened the playing field or a succesful and broad expansion of the electric car.

  4. William d'Inger says:

    I consider this proposal worse than nothing at all.

    The minimum commitment would have to be 200 new nuclear plants by the end of the decade. That is the only way to get any significant benefits from standardized engineering design and operation procedures. It is the only way to induce industry to invest in the manufacturing infrastructure for economies of scale. It would force streamlining of the permit/regulation process.

    We have already lost 30 years of incremental improvement and technological experience, and the Obama proposal just perpetuates the failure.

    P.S. — And speaking of technological failure, isn’t it about time somebody added “Obama” to the spell check dictionary?

  5. Brett says:

    There are some good things to be said for nuclear power, but I don’t think loan guarantees can tip the balance against other negatives (consumers generally not liking nukes, and the huge capital requirements for plant construction).

    Consumers generally hate anything resembling a power plant built within 100 miles of their houses (that includes off-shore turbines and the like), so it’s not as if the first part is something special that nuclear has going against it.

    As for the latter, the capital costs aren’t that bad – the big problem is the time spent dealing with paperwork, endless injunctions, etc.

  6. William d'Inger says:

    As for the latter, the capital costs aren’t that bad – the big problem is the time spent dealing with paperwork, endless injunctions, etc.

    Actually, the capital costs are that bad. While the permit process paperwork costs are significant, the fact that each plant is custom built virtually from scratch without the benefit of off-the-shelf, mass produced, standardized components is a real budget buster.

  7. PD Shaw says:

    Brett, I live 50 miles from a nuke plant, which received early site approval to build a second reactor. They’ve basically said they have no plan to actually build the second reactor, but wanted to have site approval available for the next 20 years if economic conditions significantly change, i.e. they can’t make money off of it. I’ve read that other companies have also delayed or downsized their trial balloons because of low electricity demand, high construction costs and low investor interest.

  8. spago says:

    Not to poo-poo on this…because I would like to see more nuclear (or nu-cu-lar as Denis McDonough prefers) power, but Obama shut down the site where nuclear waste is stored…so what good are these loans?

  9. Dave Schuler says:

    I’m in favor of increasing nuclear electric power generation but this move is pointing in the wrong direction. We should be installing more small mass-produced nuclear power stations (roughly the size of a minivan), probably thorium-powered, rather than the old-fashioned largescale nuclear power plants.

    BTW, my father-in-law was involved in the WPPSS (sometimes pronounced “Whoops”) debacle, so I had a front-row seat on the last attempt to build a nuclear power plant here. The power generation industry learned a number of lessons from that, doubtless many of them the wrong, but I’m pretty skeptical that we’re going to see much construction of the old, large plants.