The following op-ed from David Holt, President of Consumer Energy Alliance, appeared on the National Journal website here, in response to the discussion question “Should taxpayers back new nuclear?”
January 12, 2010 Yes, Congress should be doing more to encourage renewed developed in the nuclear industry as part of a well-rounded domestic energy program aimed at reducing energy costs to consumers that will also create jobs at home.
Nuclear energy is a clean (emission-free), reliable energy form that will help to stabilize domestic energy prices if, and only if, a viable financial structure is put in place through public and private programs to allow federal loan guarantees, access to private capital and a program that ensures an equitable sharing of risks between public and private sector beneficiaries.
The issue with Congressional actions to spur energy development is what is the right amount & type of support? The Department of Energy has a clean energy loan program in place that provides for $18.5B in government loans to spur nuclear and other clean energy development. The problem is that setting aside $18.5B is not nearly enough. Why should Congress provide for additional loans? Because the public will benefit in innumerable ways from this program: lower cost construction financing through loan guarantees means lower cost electricity to the end consumer; each nuclear plant construction translates into an average of 1400-1800 new jobs per plant and 400-700 permanent jobs when the plant is up and running; and finally, construction of new plants will create demand for U.S. commodities, large and small.
And, to be clear, these are loans, not tax credits or government subsidies. All the federal government is doing here is creating an improved environment to spur growth of clean energy and nuclear technologies. The federal government stands to actually make money on these loans. In addition to diversified energy and lower energy cost, the American public gains as the federal government makes money as the loans are paid back.
The best thing the federal government can do is to create an environment to spur energy diversity and create jobs. The sooner we start, the better.