The budget adds $36 billion to Department of Energy loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants, bringing the total amount of those guarantees to $54.5 billion. Obama heralded nuclear power in his recent State of the Union address, too, in which he called for a “new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.”
Environmentalists bristled over the call for more nuclear reactors. Greenpeace said this: “There is no such thing as a ‘safe’ dose of radiation and just because nuclear pollution is invisible doesn't mean it's ‘clean.’ ”
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) called plans to increase loan guarantees for nuclear projects “a mistake.”
“Energy sources should compete for public dollars based on how well they provide the clean, efficient, and affordable power we need. On that basis, nuclear power has a long way to go,” said Christopher Paine, director of the nuclear program at NRDC, in a statement.
Nuclear power not only enjoys greater support in political circles, but it also is finding greater acceptance among the public. Fifty-nine percent of Americans favor “using nuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity for the US,” according to the March 2009 Gallup Environment Poll. That's up from a 46 percent favorable rating in 2001.
If the waste from any new plants and the 104 existing nuclear reactors isn’t bound for Yucca Mountain, however, where will the United State safely store spent nuclear for thousands of years?