Obama grants $8 billion to build nuclear reactors

February 17th, 2010 - 12:57 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, Feb 16 (DPA) US President Barack Obama Tuesday announced $8 billion worth of loan guarantees to build the country’s first new nuclear reactors in three decades.
The loan will go towards two new nuclear reactors to be built at an existing power plant in Burke, Georgia, and is part of an effort by the Obama administration to ramp up nuclear power generation as a clean alternative to more polluting fossil fuels.

It also represents an effort to court conservative lawmakers who are key to the administration’s broader goals to reduce carbon emissions blamed for global warming. Some environmentalists by contrast remain wary of nuclear waste generated by the plants.

“Nuclear energy remains our largest source of fuel that produces no carbon emissions,” Obama said in Maryland, speaking to a labour union representing electricity workers.

“To meet our growing energy needs and prevent the worst consequences of climate change, we’ll need to increase our supply of nuclear power. It’s that simple,” Obama said.

Obama has proposed tripling US loan guarantees for nuclear power to $54 billion and last month tasked a new commission to make proposals within two years on how to better manage used nuclear fuel and waste.

The US generates about one-fifth of its electricity from nuclear energy, yet the country has not granted a permit for building new commercial nuclear power plants in three decades.

Carl Pope, executive director of US environmental group the Sierra Club, said there were cheaper ways to reduce greenhouse gases, including building more efficient homes.

“We need to prioritise the cleanest, cheapest, safest, and fastest ways to reduce emissions and nuclear power is neither clean, cheap, nor fast, nor safe,” Pope said.

“The loan guarantees announced today may ease the politics around comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation, but we do not believe that they are the best policy,” he said.

The US promised to cut its greenhouse-has emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 during the Copenhagen climate conference in December, but legislation to push the US towards that goal has stalled in Congress.

Some Republicans have expressed a willingness to work with Democrats on the climate bill if it includes more incentives for nuclear energy, clean coal technology and oil drilling off the US coastline.

Obama said the US was in danger of falling behind other countries that have pushed major nuclear investments, including France and Japan. The loan announced Tuesday would help create thousands of new jobs in the struggling US economy.

“Our competitors are racing to create jobs and command growing energy industries. And nuclear energy is no exception,” Obama said.

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