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Going nuclear

June 30, 2008 |  7:47 pm

Surf's up; so is prospct for nukes.

The U.S. Department of Energy is accepting applications for guaranteed loans for new nuclear power and uranium-enrichment projects, the agency announced Monday. The full credit of the U.S. government (that would be us, the taxpayers) will guarantee the loans if something goes awry. The news brought cheers from the nuclear industry:

"As the nation prepares to celebrate Independence Day, the Department of Energy has taken a major step on the road to greater energy security and a low-carbon future...including new nuclear power plants, uranium enrichment facilities and renewable energy projects. This program will act as a catalyst, accelerating the rate at which companies will build energy technologies that avoid, reduce or sequester greenhouse gases," said Richard Myers, Nuclear Energy Institute vice president of policy development.

No nuclear power plant has been built in America in more than 30 years, and few U.S. companies have invested in the technology to build new plants. The nation currently draws about 20% of its electricity from 104 commercial reactors, but many are nearing the end of their operating licenses. Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain promoting new nuclear power construction.

Many, but not all, environmental groups turn green at the thought of new nuclear plants, because of the long-lived hazardous waste they create. Others say because nuclear power plants emit no greenhouse gases, it may be time to reconsider them as an alternative to coal-fired power, from which the nation currently gets nearly 40% of its electricity and the single largest helping of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

No word on whether out-of-work Countrywide Financial executuves will be structuring the Department of Energy loan documents.

--Janet Wilson

Photo: San Onofre nuclear station

Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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