THE SAPIENT SPARROW: conservatism for commoners

"What has always made the State a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven."–Holderlin

GOING NUCLEAR! So, what’s the catch?

President Barack Obama announced $8.3 billion US in loan guarantees on Tuesday to help build the first U.S. nuclear power plants in nearly three decades, a move he says “is only the beginning.”  So reports Canadian CBC News.  This sounds like (suspiciously) good news.  So, what’s the catch?

First of all, public funds will be used to guarantee 80%, or more, of industry loans in the case of default.  In an industry that has had both loan repayment and cost overrun problems in the past, a loan guarantee of this type puts the taxpayer at risk.  (I thought Obama wanted to avoid risk, hence all of the regulation of the financial sector!?!)  Furthermore, the nuclear energy industry has other demands it wants the Government to meet.

The industry also continues to press for regulatory changes to speed the time it takes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to approve a nuclear application. Industry officials say the long process of winning regulatory approval discourages potential investors. Utilities like Constellation and Exelon, which operate nuclear plants, also continue to press for a cap-and-trade bill that would give the plants a competitive advantage over coal and natural gas plants that emit carbon dioxide. And Connaughton said the industry would press for an even higher level of loan guarantees. “

Second, Obama pointed out in his announcement that constructing nuclear power plants will create crucially necessary jobs… in about two years.  Ummm, guess we hope people can hang on for that long?

Then there is the problem of storing the waste generated by nuclear energy production.  Since Mr. Obama closed the Yucca Mountain long-term waste storage facility, what are we to do about the ‘waste’ problem?  Carol Browner, Energy Czar has the answer.  Yesterday, she explained about “on site” storage and that it was a “very safe” way to store nuclear waste.  Yet, in January 2006, she was far from definite about the safety of using the Yucca Mountain facility.

Carol Browner expressed reservations about using nuclear power because of the so-called ‘waste’ problem at the C-Span-televised 35th anniversary meeting of former EPA administrators in January, 2006. On January 19, 2001, Clinton EPA Administrator Carol Browner moved to finalize stringent water radiation exposure standards for Yucca Mountain to the White House for signoff.”

Finally, Mr. Obama intimated that now that he has agreed to constructing new nuclear energy plants, he  expects the Republicans to work with him in a “bi-partisan manner” to pass a Climate/Clean Energy Bill.
Can we say “quid pro quo”?  At this point, Republicans have nothing to lose by supporting Mr. Obama’s nuclear power initiative while at the same time opposing any Cap and Trade Bill.  After all, we will have no energy benefit for a number of years from nuclear plants, but we will all immediately, and negatively, be impacted by a Cap and Trade Bill.

NOTE TO SELF:  If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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