NPR : News

U.S. Government Will Back Loans For Nuclear Power

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced a multibillion-dollar loan guarantee Wednesday for building nuclear reactors in Georgia, underscoring the White House's plan for an "all of the above" energy strategy.

The two reactors will be the first built in this country in nearly three decades.

President Obama "sees nuclear energy as a part of his carbon-free portfolio" that also includes renewable energy sources, Moniz said during a speech at the National Press Club in Washington. "We are working across the board to push the technology forward into the marketplace for all of our energy sources."

Moniz said he would finalize the loans on Thursday during a trip to Georgia.

The announcement brought quick criticism from some environmentalists.

In a statement, Katherine Fuchs of Friends of the Earth pointed to a nuclear disaster in Japan. "Fewer than three years have passed since the tragedy at Fukushima demonstrated that nuclear reactors can never be safe. Yet the president and energy secretary are ignoring its lessons," Fuchs said.

But Moniz said the administration wants to fight climate change by encouraging development of an array of energy sources that have lower carbon emissions. This particular effort to help nuclear energy has been pending since February 2010 when the White House gave conditional approval for loan guarantees for a nuclear power project in Waynesboro, Ga.

When the deal is finalized Thursday, Georgia Power and Oglethorpe Power will receive a combined $6.5 billion in loan guarantees to finish building the Vogtle nuclear plant expansion. A third Vogtle partner, Municipal Electric Association of Georgia, has yet to complete the steps for a proposed $1.8 billion guarantee.

The three partner companies are building two Westinghouse units using new designs. "The innovative technology used in this project represents a new generation of nuclear power with advanced safety features and demonstrates renewed leadership from the U.S. nuclear energy industry," Moniz said.

The loan guarantees, part of a 2005 energy bill, were intended to revive nuclear plant construction. But over the years, the initiative has run into stumbling blocks over how the loans would be secured.

Closing the deals on Thursday will mark "a major milestone in the administration's commitment to jump-start the U.S. nuclear power industry," Moniz said.

But Fuchs said the loan guarantees are not a good deal for taxpayers because "nuclear reactors are too risky to finance, too slow to build and too dangerous to be part of a meaningful energy solution."

Update at 8:30 p.m. ET: Predicting More Plants

Advocates for nuclear energy are pleased by the U.S. loan guarantees. Scott Peterson, vice president at the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group, says the agreement sends a message that nuclear power is still attractive, even after the catastrophic melt downs at the Fukushima plant.

"As we start to see the economy bounce back, and we see electricity demand start to increase, I believe we'll see more nuclear plants being built," Peterson said.

NPR reporter Geoff Brumfiel contributed to this story. You can hear Geoff's report on Thursday's Morning Edition.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

How Mike Birbiglia Applies 'Yes, And ...' To Improv And Beyond

Birbiglia's new film follows a fictional New York improv troupe. Don't Think Twice explores the tension between personal ambition and being an "endlessly generous" team player.
NPR

Scraped, Splattered — But Silent No More. Finally, The Dinner Plate Gets Its Say

Instagram is the Internet's semi-obsessive, borderline-creepy love letter to food. But behind every great meal is a plate doing a pretty-OK job. So a comedian made an Instagram to celebrate plates.
NPR

Where Tim Kaine And Hillary Clinton Stand On Key Issues

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine is Hillary Clinton's running mate. The two agree on how government should tackle abortion and gun control, but disagree on the authorization of military force.
NPR

Making The Cloud Green: Tech Firms Push For Renewable Energy Sources

Few people can demand what kind of electricity they get. But Microsoft and Facebook, which operate huge, power-hungry data centers, are trying to green up the electricity grid with their buying power.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.