WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is highlighting a new investment
in energy jobs with an announcement that the government will guarantee
more than $8 billion in loans needed to build the first U.S. nuclear
power plant in nearly three decades.
Obama was to make remarks
Tuesday after touring a job training center at the headquarters of
Local 26 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in
nearby Lanham, Md. The union represents electrical and
telecommunications workers, and it offers training useful for energy
jobs, including the construction of nuclear power plants.
was expected to announce a total of $8.3 billion in federal loan
guarantees to build and operate a pair of reactors to be built in
Burke, Ga., by Southern Co., an administration official said Monday.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of Obama's
Federal loan guarantees are seen as essential to
spurring construction of new reactors because of the huge expense.
Critics say the guarantees are a form of subsidy that will put
taxpayers at risk given the industry's record of cost overruns and loan
The reactors, to be built by the Atlanta-based energy
company, are part of a White House plan the administration hopes will
win Republican support at a time when the public is expressing a desire
for lawmakers to work together to solve problems.
make the announcement also underscores the political weight the White
House is putting behind the effort to use nuclear power and other
alternative energy sources to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and
other fossil fuels, and create jobs at home.
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But construction of the reactors — and the jobs the project is expected to create — are years away.
Co.'s application for a license to build and operate the reactors is
pending with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, one of 13 such
applications the agency is considering. The earliest any could be
approved would be late 2011 or early 2012, an NRC spokesman said.
Co. says the Georgia project would create about 3,000 construction
jobs, while the new reactors would generate power for about 1.4 million
people and permanently employ 850 people.
Obama called for "a new
generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants" in his State of the
Union address last month, and followed that by proposing to triple new
federal loan guarantees for new nuclear plants. The president's budget
proposal for 2011 would add $36 billion in new federal loan guarantees
to $18.5 billion already budgeted but not spent — for a total of $54.5
That sum is enough to help build six or seven new nuclear plants, which can cost at least $8 billion apiece.
costs, safety issues and opposition from environmentalists have kept
utility companies from building new nuclear power plants since the
early 1980s. The 104 nuclear reactors currently operating in 31 states
provide about one-fifth of the nation's electricity.