Obama Budget Calls for Major Nuclear Investments


"Proposal calls for $36B in loan guarantees, over $800B for research."

President Obama's fiscal year 2012 budget outlines a plan for reviving the country's nuclear power industry, calling for $36B in government-backed loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors and setting aside more than $800B for nuclear energy research.

Obama has said that nuclear power is a key component of the country's energy future. In his State of the Union speech last month, he outlined a plan to generate 80% of the country's electricity from low-carbon sources including nuclear by 2035.

But the prospect of reviving a U.S. nuclear energy industry faces significant obstacles. The country has not seen the completion of a new nuclear reactor for decades and high costs have stalled projects. Nuclear energy has its share of opponents, who cite safety concerns.

Republicans, for their part, have put a so-called "nuclear renaissance" in the United States at the top of their agenda, outlining plans to streamline regulatory oversight at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and build a series of scaled-down, "mini-nukes" that would cost less and take less time to build.

Obama's FY2012 budget request, sent to Congress Monday, revives a similar provision in his fiscal year 2011 budget request that would provide $36B in additional loan guarantee authority for nuclear power. This would add to the $18B in nuclear loan guarantee authority the DOE already has. The budget also calls for loan guarantees for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

More broadly, the DOE budget request provides a $29.5 billion for the Department of Energy, a slight increase from the president's fiscal year 2011 budget request, which was never enacted. The figure represents a 12% increase when compared to the budget enacted in 2010. A large portion of the overall DOE budget goes to efforts by the department to secure and clean up nuclear materials and radioactive waste.

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