On the floor of the U.S. Senate this Monday, Senator Lamar Alexander (TN-R) introduced the Clean Energy Act of 2009 that aims to double the amount of nuclear energy generated in the U.S. within 20 years by providing the nuclear power industry with billions of dollars in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees. The legislation was co-sponsored by Senator Jim Webb (VA-D). Senator Alexander spoke about the bill earlier in the day at conference held by the American Nuclear Society.
A summary of the bill that was provided clearly shows that the bulk of the requested $20 billion over 10 years would go to finance the already-mature nuclear industry to continue building risky and costly new nuclear reactors and reprocessing technologies. The legislation seems to be a repeat of what Senator Alexander began pushing earlier this year. Building one hundred new reactors would result in an enormous burden on the U.S. taxpayer, which was outlined in a recently released fact sheet.
The proposed legislation dramatically increases the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program up to $100 billion, which Senator Alexander claims would only result in a cost of no more than $10 billion to taxpayers. This does not align with Government Accountability Office numbers that predict that the default rate for new reactors is 50% with an asset recovery of 50% in the event of a default (see page 19 of the GAO report). Instead, 100 new reactors could cost the U.S. taxpayer $200 billion. The Clean Energy Act of 2009 suggests that, once again, privatizing profit and socializing risk are in play in the US Senate.
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