Monday, February 15, 2010
Obama decision on nuclear power is potentially volatile compromise
Certainly being president of all the people means having to do things that may disappoint your supporters but benefit the country as a whole. That, certainly, is behind U.S. President Barack Obama's repeated entreaties to the Republican Party minorities in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, despite his Democratic Party's majorities in both. And that probably explains his thinking Monday, when an unnamed official told the Reuters international news service that he would announce an $8.3 billion loan guarantee to help the Southern Co. of Atlanta build two nuclear reactors. But there should be, one would hope, a limit to the number of basic principles you're willing to surrender. Healthcare reform appears to have been inadvisedly compromised away, so expansion of the civilian nuclear power industry would have been a very good place to start holding the line. There's a good reason no nuclear power plants have been built in the United States for 30 years -- even besides the nearly incalculable damage that a major accident could cause, nuclear waste disposal technology is not now, even after all these years, and obviously may never be ready for prime time. Yet Obama plans to put the federal taxing power behind a utility company to help it build two more reactors at an existing two-reactor nuclear plant outside Atlanta. Obama is backing nuclear power as an environmentally desirable alternative to fossil fuel plants, even though his decision will likely damage his pro-environment credentials. The loan guarantees will enable the Southern Co. to finance 70 percent of the new construction, which is expected to cost as much as $9 billion when the plants are completed in 2016 or 2017.