Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Nuclear opponents score quiet but huge victory
Last week I mentioned the almost laughable flimsiness of anti-nuclear arguments. I also pointed out that this weakness is largely irrelevant (or at least has been irrelevant so far). The anti-nuclear movement is alive and well, and still a powerful threat.


Witness the quiet victory for the U.S. movement back in June. The U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted to remove nuclear projects from the list of those eligible for loan guarantees under the 2005 Energy Policy Act (EPAct). As I pointed out on May 14
, the so-called nuclear renaissance could be stillborn if the critical players—like prospective financiers of new build projects—aren’t assured that at the very least they won’t lose their shirts if they finance a project. The loan guarantees were written into the EPAct to provide exactly this assurance. And taken out precisely to thwart that purpose.

The White House said President Bush would veto the House bill, but that is little comfort for prospective financiers. Bush won’t even be president after next year. Who knows what his successor’s position will be. And who knows what the congress will look like after the 2008 election. So the bottom line is, the EPAct loan guarantees aren’t really guarantees.

All this points to a basic frame through which the Appropriations Committee lawmakers view the nuclear issue. Nuclear is a money hog, which sucks dollars away from wind, solar, biomass, and all the other alternative forms of energy. Politics is about who gets what. Alternative energy needs and deserves federal support; the atom doesn’t.

It seems amazing that the congressmen really see things this way. But they do. How to deal with this?

By making the case that nuclear is the only viable way to deliver massive amounts of carbon-free electricity. And proving the case.

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