Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Nuclear Loan Guarantees Expand

piketon The nuclear good news express has – seemingly – pulled into the station for an extended stay. We’ll see what we can do about reviving our natural gloomy nature tomorrow.

A measure passed in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 15 to 8 includes language for the creation of the Clean Energy Development Administration, a new federal agency to help funnel loan guarantees for nuclear, wind and solar projects.

Chatter has moved nuclear energy in and out of this “clean energy bank,” but the final word is: in.

While an initial $18.5 billion loan-guarantee program will help build four new nuclear plants, an additional $90 billion in loan guarantees already have been requested among the 17 companies proposing 26 new reactors, according to Mitch Singer of the Nuclear Energy Institute.

What’s intriguing about this is that the benefits of these 26 plants – well, the ones that are chosen to get the loan guarantees, anyway – way outstrip the cost to the government. Loan guarantees represent no taxpayer outlay – instead, they put the imprimatur of the government behind loan applications made to private banks, reducing risk considerably. It’s really the nuclear interests and the banks that pull the financial freight here.

Now, the government would be on the hook if a project went pear-shaped, but there’s no advantage to letting that happen – any potential nuclear renaissance would wither away if the plants cannot be successfully built and the dream of reversing climate change would wither with it.

So the onus falls on the industry to ensure that the projects do not fail. And industry would not put itself willingly into a position to fail. If the businesses had fallen into a such a state of disrepair, they simply would not proceed.

But they are proceeding.

[Duke Energy] plans to announce on Thursday a new nuclear-power project near Piketon, Ohio that also is near a planned uranium-enrichment plant operated by USEC Inc., according to reports and an industry source.

The (old) Piketon plant. When people call industrial plants “hulking,” this is what they mean. Whatever Duke and USEC do with this site will be a marked improvement.

1 comment:

Ioannes said...

If all the money given by the Obama Administration to failed car companies GM and Crysler had instead been devoted to new nuclear power plants, would not the country be better off? $15 billion in loan guaruntees out of 3 trillion dollars of debt seems like a paltry sum. Well, we've been down this road before.