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.
"We didn't have good experience recently with the mortgage industry, and we ought to keep that in mind with nuclear power," says Doug Koplow, president of Earthtrack, an energy consulting firm. "For each power plant, we're talking about something like $8 billion in taxpayer exposure to a single asset owned by a private firm. To me that seems unprecedented."
Various studies and the US Government Accountability Office warn of potential loan default rates on the order of 50 percent. The Department of Energy, though, says safeguards are in place to prevent that.