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Happy Nuc Year, America

Billions of dollars will be loaned to the American nuclear industry this year, it seems.
Written by Harry Fuller, Contributor

2010 is going to be the year we Yankeee taxpayers get to funnel more money into another bailout. This time it is the nuclear power industry. Back in 2005 the Congress authorized over $18 billion in loans to the nuc boys. The then-Pres signed it, but somehow, with two top oilmen in the two top positions of the land...nothing.

Now, with a different administration less enthralled by oil, oil, oil...or drill, baby, drill, there seems to be a desire to actually dispense that money. Apparently the first big bolus of cash will go to a nuclear plant in Georgia to build another reactor. It's been decades since America commissioned a new nuclear plant.

This will not be like erecting another wind turbine. Estimates are that new nuc plant construction would not begin in Georgia before 2011, even if there are no legal delays. Construction would be completed by 2017 if all goes well. Opponents to the revived nuclear industry in Georgia are led by Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE). SACE is largely supported by foundations and one cosmetic firm. SACE charges over-runs, over-runs and more over-runs are likely.

You can read the whole SACE attack on the loan to their local nuclear guys here.

NUCLEAR WASTE: SPENT FUEL, NOT SPENT MONEY And there's the matter of all that waste, 'er "spent fuel." Now the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) has a whole section of their website touting the great advances in spent fuel tech. They say the new tech "holds promise." That implies you shouldn't be holding your breath. And NEI projects it would take significant construction of numerous plants if we want nuclear to continue to produce 20% of America's electricity as years go by.

While the first nuclear "war" may get fought in Georgia, the skirmishes will erupt in many places. A French firm, Areva, just signed a memo of understanding to try to build a nuclear power plant in Fresno. California, here we come, right back....

France--we all know--gets most of its electricity from nuclear power plants.

Of course, we all should remember that nuclear power plants produce no greenhouse gas emissions, do use enormous amounts of fresh water and require fuel mined from the earth. Nuclear plants are not weather dependent and can theoretically run non-stop at controlled levels of production, not requiring huge electrical storage facilities. The nuclear issue continues to split environmental groups with some in favor, some continually opposed. When and how the fossil fuel industry might wade into this battle remains to be seen. Of course, it would not be hard for Exxon or Chevron to buy nuclear plants if they do start sprouting up in pro-nuclear states. I wouldn't be betting my pension on those plants getting built near Fresno. [poll id="211"]

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