When President Obama voiced strong support for nuclear energy at his State of the Union address last week, both sides of the aisle jumped to their feet in applause. Nuclear subsidies have become a political necessity in Congress, despite the fact that nuclear energy is dirty, dangerous, and not really renewable. And due in large part to the nuclear industry's lobbying strength in Washington, democrats have drawn criticism for favoring cleaner options like wind power in lieu of nuclear. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, for one, criticized the president's initial plan as "a national windmill policy instead of a national energy policy, which is the military equivalent of going to war in sailboats."
Nuclear enthusiasts are no doubt pleased by the administration's announcement today that it intends to triple the amount of nuclear loan guarantees for new nuclear plants to $54 billion. "It's important to have a higher bar than what we have been working with, just $18.5 billion," John Keeley, a spokesperson for the Nuclear Energy Institute, told me. "Put it in the context of where we need to go as a culture. You can't get there with the volume the government has underwritten so far."
USA Today's Green House blog reports today that a cohort of environmental groups, energy scientists, and small-government conservatives have mobilized to oppose nuke pushers like Alexander and Keeley. One letter to Obama, penned by taxpayer advocacy and nuclear non-proliferation groups, warns that "With hundreds of billions in bailouts already on the shoulders of U.S. taxpayers, the country cannot afford to move forward with a program that could easily become the black hole for hundreds of billions more."