Five years ago, George Bush became the first American president to visit a nuclear-power plant in 30 years. In 2007 Congress voted to fund a federal loan guarantee for the construction of new ones. In January Barack Obama embraced his predecessor’s vision, pledging to build a “new generation of safe, clean nuclear-power plants”. On February 1st he followed that up in his proposed budget for 2011 by tripling to $54 billion the value of loans for new nuclear plants the government is offering to guarantee.
Yet America’s much-predicted nuclear renaissance has yet to occur. On October 8th Constellation Energy, a power company, gave up trying to persuade the government to reduce its proposed fee for a loan guarantee for a planned nuclear plant on Chesapeake Bay. The government’s price “would clearly destroy…the economics of any nuclear project,” grumbled the firm. Experts now predict that the project, a joint venture with EDF, a French state-controlled electricity giant, will die.
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), a trade association, blames the breakdown of negotiations with Constellation on “a ridiculous formulaic approach” by the White House Office of Management and Budget, which considered the Chesapeake Bay plant a very risky project. Despite this, the NEI sees “no evidence of a lack of commitment by the administration”. Others are not so sure. Some suspect that Mr Obama’s earlier nuke-boosting was a ploy to win Republican support (which never materialised) for a climate bill.