Obama Makes $8 Billion in Nuclear Energy Loan Guarantees

By Peter Sanftman
Peter Sanftman
Peter Sanftman
February 17, 2010 Updated: February 17, 2010

President Obama is putting the taxpayer’s money where his mouth is when it comes to nuclear energy. In a major policy speech on Feb. 16, Obama announced his decision for the national energy policy, which heavily hinges on nuclear energy.

At the speech before a crowd of government officials and union leaders in Lanham, Maryland, he said his administration will give $8 billion in loan guarantees for securing the funds for a new nuclear power plant.

At the same time, Obama reiterated the importance of investing in future energy technologies in order to have necessary developments inside the U.S., creating jobs and the ability to export the technology to other countries.

"It's a plant that will create thousands of construction jobs in the next few years, and some 800 permanent jobs—well-paying permanent jobs—in the years to come," Obama announced in his speech.

The decision includes tripling the existing loan guarantees that are being provided at the moment in order to move toward what Obama calls a "future in which we're exporting homegrown energy technology instead of importing foreign oil."

Building clean nuclear power plants in America is the latter of three points Obama mentioned as "necessary steps" on the road to "harness America’s potential in clean energy." At the same time, he talked about "opening up new offshore areas for oil and gas development," and about making "continued investments in advanced bio-fuels and clean coal technologies," and building "greater capacity in renewables like wind and solar."

While the final storage of nuclear waste remains unresolved, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs revealed further details on recent decisions about the final storage facility planning for nuclear waste products during a press briefing on Feb. 16.

Effectively, there is still no permanent storage facility for nuclear waste.

According to his answers to reporters' questions, the research for a permanent storing facility for nuclear waste has been going on for more than 20 years.

"The Nuclear Policy Act of 1986 is what began the process of collecting money to build a long-term nuclear waste repository," said Mr. Gibbs.

Accordingly, the U.S. has not built any additional nuclear facilities for the last 30 years. Mr. Gibbs said the president "is going to have a bipartisan panel decide."

Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope welcomed the importance that President Obama is giving to building a clean energy economy. However, in a Feb. 16 statement, he mentioned some "areas of disagreement and loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants are one of them.”

Stressing the need for finding "the cleanest, cheapest, safest, and fastest ways" to reduce emissions, Pope claims nuclear power is "neither clean, cheap, nor fast, nor safe."

Pope instead advocates retrofitting old houses as a far less costly way to reduce emissions. Additionally, the Sierra Club says that investments in energy efficiency and clean energy provide fewer jobs per dollar than investments in fossil energy sources or nuclear energy.

He also mentioned that the nonpartisan congressional Budget Office has put the risk of default for the $8 billion in loans is over 50 percent.

Prof. Klevans is Professor Emeritus at Pennsylvania State University. In an interview with the Epoch Times, he said that he agreed with the current plan of building a new nuclear energy plant being "the safe way to go" for securing a clean energy supply for the U.S.

Klevans says that according to available data, nuclear energy is the "only reliable" source of energy to invest in where the necessary experience and technology is available and ready to use.

The data on economics have been carefully examined and they resulted in nuclear energy being a fair alternative for energy investment with the operating costs being comparable to renewable energy sources. He also stresses that currently, over 70 percent of America’s clean energy production is constituted by nuclear energy.