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Obama's nuclear power policy: a study in contradictions?

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"It's ironic, but Obama could end up being the biggest pro-nuclear power president since Dwight Eisenhower," says Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, a nuclear deterrence expert who served as deputy for nonproliferation policy in the Department of Defense from 1989-1993 under President George H.W. Bush.

One antidote to global warming?

Among environmentalists, who saw Mr. Obama as a friend of renewable energy, the sense of betrayal is acute.

"Every new nuclear power plant built would be a step backwards when it comes to solving global warming," Anna Aurilio, a spokeswoman for Environment America said a statement. "Clean energy solutions like energy efficiency and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are far more effective."

Obama's stance won plaudits from the industry, however.

"The administration's initiative will make a meaningful difference in bringing about development of the nuclear energy facilities that our nation needs," Marvin Fertel, president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, said in a statement.

Budget hawks have a different set of concerns. They oppose government "subsidies" to the industry (in the form of federal loan guarantees), saying taxpayers assume a huge risk given the industry's track record of cost overruns – and loan defaults – in the 1980s.

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