Senate nuclear plans

25 May 2005

Proposals from the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee would allow federal loan guarantees for energy projects that “avoid, reduce or sequester” greenhouse gases. The funds would cover up to 80% of the cost and would include nuclear generation.

The guarantees would only back projects involving new technologies that are not already commercially available and would be of no cost to the federal government except in the case of a default.

The committee chairman Pete Domenici is thought to have restricted direct spending from the Treasury in line with budgetary constraints.

Of the nine draft titles released by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee so far, research and development commands the lion’s share with nuclear energy getting just under $2 billion.

Loan guarantees for nuclear power stations that have been included in previous attempts at a comprehensive energy bill have so far run into insurmountable opposition. Energy secretary Sam Bodman is known to oppose direct up front financial support for new reactors but is thought to support a streamlined permitting process and government-backed risk insurance for projects that are delayed.

The draft of the Senate energy bill, issued 20 May, also omitted provisions for a demonstration advanced nuclear reactor to produce both electricity and hydrogen at the Idaho National Laboratory. However, the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee also voted to authorise $1.25 billion between 2006 and 2015 for the reactor. Bodman has spoken out against this project.

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