We knew something like this was coming. Obama said it in his State of the Union address: “To create more of these clean-energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives, and that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.” Lo and behold, the President announced this week that the government is offering $8 billion in loan guarantees to build two nuclear reactors in Georgia–the first nuclear power plant in nearly three decades. But is it a good idea?
In a speech, Obama noted, “Even though we’ve not broken ground on a… new nuclear power plant in 30 years, nuclear energy remains our largest source of fuel that
produces no carbon emissions”. He’s right. Until a smart grid is built that can efficiently dole out solar and wind power when it is needed most, nuclear energy will also remain the most reliable source of emissions-free fuel.
A new nuclear plant is certainly preferable to a new coal facility, but waste and safety issues are problematic, to say the least. And not everyone thinks Obama’s multi-billion dollar plan will pan out economically. Jim Riccio, Greenpeace’s Nuclear Policy Analyst, warns, “Unfortunately, the President is setting up the American taxpayer for the next corporate bailout. The U.S. Congressional Budget Office has already determined that these loans stand a greater than 50% chance of default.”
Obama also claimed in his speech that the new nuclear facility will create thousands of jobs. That may be true during construction, but Georgia’s Southern Co., the energy company behind the project, estimates that the plant will generate just 850 permanent jobs.
None of this is really the point. Obama bid to build the nuclear reactors is an attempt to build bipartisan support for alternative energy initiatives. And if he can pull off that seemingly impossible feat, the whole thing might just be worth it.
[Via Wall Street Journal]