New U.S. DOE Nuclear Loan Guarantees Struggle in House Panel

Cracks appear in support for $36 billion in new U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee authority for nuclear projects.

U.S._House_SealCracks in support for $36 billion in new US Department of Energy loan guarantee authority for nuclear projects appeared on Thursday, after a House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee postponed a meeting scheduled to discuss a draft 2011 appropriations bill because the bill did not contain provisions for that authority.

The Obama administration requested the additional authority in its 2011 budget, and that request has the support of most members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, an aide to Representative Chet Edwards said Friday. The Texas Democrat is the vice chairman of the subcommittee.

“To eliminate or dramatically cut the President’s $36 billion request for nuclear loans in fiscal year 2011 would be devastating for the jobs and economic growth our country desperately needs,” Edwards said in a statement.

“I believe a clear majority of House members favor the expansion of nuclear power in America, and I will do everything I can to work in partnership with business and labor, which are united in support of this effort,” he added.

The subcommittee postponed the DOE appropriations bill markup scheduled for Thursday because the draft did not contain the new authority, Edwards’ aide said.

DOE currently has $18.5 billion in loan guarantee authority for nuclear power projects, including $8.3 billion it conditionally awarded to Southern Company and several partners for the Vogtle plant in Georgia.

In addition to the $36 billion in the agency’s fiscal 2011 budget request, DOE has asked Congress for $9 billion in authority immediately, so it can go forward with loan guarantees for three other plants.

Most members of the subcommittee were unavailable for comment Friday, but Idaho Republican Mike Simpson said he “strongly supported” including funds for the loan guarantees in the appropriation bill.

Appropriations rules require 1% of loan guarantee authority be appropriated to DOE, in this case $360 million.

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Source: Platts
Photo: U.S. House of Representatives