The nuclear disaster in Japan continues to deepen the sense of devastation from one of the worst tsunamis in history. Despite a long history of concern over the safety of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, nuclear power boosters like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) now claim the ongoing meltdown is something “no one has ever really anticipated outside of science fiction movies.”
Fueled by intense lobbying from the nuclear industry, Republicans in the House of Representatives are ignoring the meltdown, pushing full steam ahead with billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for new nuclear plants, even as they zero out programs for renewable energy. The Department of Energy’s successful clean energy loan guarantee program is on the chopping block — except for nuclear power. On Face the Nation, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) criticized the choice to put public money on risky nuclear companies instead of clean wind, solar, and geothermal power:
Unbelievably, the nuclear industry was able, just three weeks ago, to convince the Republican House of Representatives to zero out the loan guarantee money for wind and solar and geothermal, and to put in $18 billion in taxpayer-guaranteed loan guarantees for the nuclear industry. Well, that’s ancient history, already, because it’s pretty clear that the nuclear industry as an electrical-generating part of our mix for the future is now going to meet its maker in the marketplace. It won’t be protesters. It will be Wall Street investors that are going to be raising real questions about its viability going forward.
Markey correctly points out that the largest barrier to new nuclear power isn’t environmental protesters but investors skeptical of investing in an increasingly expensive technology that isn’t even necessary to solve global warming.
President Barack Obama’s proposed 2012 budget includes about $2 billion for renewable loan guarantees and $54 billion for the nuclear industry. The $6 billion appropriated for renewable loan guarantees in the Recovery Act has been whittled down in recent years to $2.5 billion, with considerable money not yet fully committed. Republicans are trying to go even farther than Obama, eliminating the Recovery Act funds (Section 3001 of HR 1) as well as the ongoing renewable loan guarantee program (Section 1425), while agreeing with Obama’s risky nuclear push.