On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Energy offered the first conditional loan guarantee for new nuclear plant construction, keeping with comments made by President Obama in the recent State of the Union address. The loan will help Southern Company build two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in eastern Georgia. The Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) and Working People for Fair Energy (WPFE), two Southeastern-based consumer groups, applauded the move.
“On behalf of working people and businesses, PACE applauds the president for taking an important step toward a reliable, affordable, and cleaner American energy future,” stated Lance Brown, Executive Director of PACE. “Supporting new nuclear construction is part of the balanced, common-sense approach that will keep our lights on.”
PACE was joined in congratulating the move by Atlanta-based WPFE, a consumer group headed by civil rights activist Charles Steele, former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
“With people hurting and businesses struggling, the president’s support of new nuclear construction is good news for consumers,” said Steele. “This move is a strong signal that he understands the regional differences in energy resources and acknowledges that nuclear, along with clean coal, will be one of the keys to the Southeast’s future.”
The 2011 federal budget adds $36 billion to the Department of Energy’s budget for nuclear loan guarantees, nearly tripling the department’s effort in that area. According to the department, this will enable the construction of seven to ten new nuclear reactors. Over the past year, PACE and WPFE have argued that a combination of clean coal technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration, new nuclear construction, and the deployment of select renewable energy technologies will be key to providing reliable, affordable power across the Southeast and beyond. The two organizations have conducted a number of town hall meetings and public appearances to create grassroots awareness of national energy proposals, as well as provided information to national policy makers about the viability of alternative energy sources in regions such as the Southeast.
“It has become clear that while energy sources such as solar and wind might work well in other regions, they aren’t going to make a significant contribution in the Southeast,” said Brown. “To keep the lights on and power bills affordable, it is important that base-load sources such as nuclear and clean coal remain a vital part of our energy portfolio.”
“We are very pleased that consumers in Georgia, where I live and work, will see the first benefits of this initiative by President Obama,” added Steele. “We look forward to seeing other nuclear loan guarantees issued by this administration.”