On Tuesday, President Obama will announce plans to break ground on two new nuclear reactors at a Southern Company plant in Burke, Georgia — the first new U.S. nuclear reactors since the incident at Three Mile Island in 1979.
The president will make the announcement at the IBEW Local Headquarters in Lanham, Md., where union members can learn applications that can be used in the construction of nuclear power plants.
The White House is making no bones about the fact that they see this announcement as advancing two agenda items: clean energy and efforts at bipartisanship.
"In the State of the Union and at the House Republican Conference retreat, the President made clear that he is willing to work with Republicans towards a comprehensive solution to our energy challenges," a White House official said. "By announcing plans today to break ground on the first new nuclear reactors in nearly three decades, the President is making good on his offer to meet Republicans halfway."
The official said that pro-nuke Republicans now need to return the favor.
"Republicans who advocate for nuclear power have to recognize that we will not achieve a big boost in nuclear capacity unless we also create a system of incentives to make clean energy profitable," the official said. "As long as producing carbon pollution carries no costs, plants that burn fossil fuel will be more cost effective than nuclear plants."
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorized the Department of Enegery to issue loan guarantees "for projects that avoid, reduce, or sequester air pollutants or greenhouse gas emissions and employ new or significantly-improved technologies," the White House official said, adding that it has been one of Energy Secretary Stephen Chu’s top priorities to allocate $18.5 billion under that authority.
The President has proposed tripling loan guarantees for nuclear-power plant construction to more than $54 billion in his FY2011 budget.
Nuclear energy meets approximately 20 percent of the United States' energy needs. According to Southern Company, the new project will create approximately 3,000 onsite construction jobs in the short term and approximately 850 permanent operations jobs.
During his presidential campaign, then-Sen. Obama was a qualified supporter of new nukes.
"I think that nuclear power should be in the mix when it comes to energy," he said as a candidate, adding "I don't think it's our optimal energy source because we haven't figured out how to store the waste safely or recycle the waste."
Last month the president announced the creation of a bipartisan Blue Ribbon Commission to review policies for nuclear waste, led by former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., and the National Security Adviser to President George H.W. Bush, Brent Scowcroft.