The Progressive Fix

Obama’s Strong Push for Nuclear Power

Yesterday, President Obama announced the approval of an $8.3 billion loan guarantee to break ground on two new nuclear reactors in Georgia — the first new nuclear plants to be built in the U.S. in three decades:

The commitment to Southern Co. was the latest — and strongest — signal yet that the administration is serious about making nuclear power part of the energy mix for a clean economy. It also reflects this administration’s resolutely pragmatic and reality-based approach to energy policy.

As we at PPI have argued, for the U.S. to achieve its goal of cutting carbon emissions and freeing ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil, all forms of low- and no-carbon fuel sources need to be considered. Nuclear currently provides 19 percent of the U.S.’s energy, making it by far the largest source of non-carbon emitting power. While solar and wind energy should also be scaled up, the fact remains that it will be a long time before those renewables become major energy sources.

The administration’s support will also mean jobs. The Georgia plants alone will create thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent operation and management positions. With a promise of more loan guarantees down the pipeline, the administration is wisely framing the nuclear push as a jobs program as well.

By aggressively promoting nuclear, the administration is also seeking to call the Republicans’ bluff on energy policy. Longtime advocates of nuclear power, Republicans have been slow to accept the olive branch that the Obama administration has offered. In his speech, President Obama argued that nuclear would not get the boost it needed unless we created incentives for clean energy — in other words, a price on carbon. As long as there is no penalty for carbon pollution, fossil fuel sources will remain more cost-effective and profitable than nuclear and other renewables.

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