Will The New Decade Bring the US New Nuclear Energy?
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The Obama Administration is on the verge of announcing new loan guarantees for the nuclear industry. According to news accounts, the Department of Energy will soon give a loan guarantee to Southern Energy to build 2 new nuclear facilities in Georgia, but they will still need licensing and additional financing. No new nuclear reactor have been built in the US in decades; investors and the public were spooked after the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island.A new reactor costs about $7 billion dollars to build--not an insignificant sum--and new reactors won't be online for at least 8 or 9 years, even if they get the green light. Congress in 2005 authorized $18.5 billion in loans, but that money has not yet been used.
Of course that could all change with a new climate bill on the horizon that will finally put a price on carbon. Nuclear power is almost carbon free, if you ignore the mining for nuclear fuel, making it attractive in a new less intensive carbon economy.
Says the Nuclear Energy Institute: "When DOE issues their first loan guarantee, that's going to send an important signal to private-sector financing, and Wall Street in particular."
Both Sens. John Kerry and Lindsey Graham, key architects of the Senate climate bill coming in 2010, are in favor of expanded nuclear use, but of course many environmentalists oppose more nuclear because of safety risks and cost. Every dollar spent on nuclear is one less spent on renewable energy.