Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Hidden Threat to the Nuclear Renaissance

From the American Prospect:

It's a little misleading to call America's renewed interest in nuclear power a full-blown renaissance. For one thing, the renaissance hasn't happened yet. Even with the perfect storm of global warming, dwindling fossil fuels, and the second Bush presidency, the current zeal for new nuclear power has fed on speculation for the last decade. It will have to do so for a long time to come. Tuesday's news that President Barack Obama agreed to provide $8 billion in federal backing for two reactors in the state of Georgia -- the first nuclear plants cleared for construction in nearly 30 years -- ignored the massive financial, political, and technical hurdles between announcement and production.

However, it is fair to say that the unlikely partnership of Republicans and pro-nuke environmentalists just got a lot stronger. Candidate Obama's nuclear support was often read as political posturing; President Obama's nuclear support comes with hard cash. Viable or not, the nuclear revival now has the backing of the most prominent Democrat in a generation. His 2011 budget proposes to triple federal loan guarantees for new plant construction, essentially forcing taxpayers to shoulder the immense risks that Wall Street learned to shun decades ago. Nuclear power offers all the fiscal risks of a "too big to fail" bank, with the added risk of being too dangerous to fail as well.

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