the following post is a response I received from an email (Provided in Full) I sent to Senator McCaskill about:
Dear Mr. Scott,
Thank you for contacting me regarding nuclear energy. I appreciate hearing from you, and welcome the opportunity to respond.
As the United States seeks to become more energy independent and reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) it will be important to diversify our investments in all available energy sources. Renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, and biomass will play a valuable role in achieving these objectives. However, our country’s energy needs are considerable, and they continue to grow. Even accounting for rapid expansion in recent years, renewable sources provide only a small percentage of our country’s total energy production. We simply can’t address our energy needs through increased production of renewable energy alone.
To meet our energy demand, we must invest in a diversity of energy sources and new technologies. Responsible development of new nuclear facilities, carbon capture and sequestration technology to reduce GHG emissions currently associated with coal energy, and expanded use of natural gas will all be necessary.
Along with significant investments in renewable energy, in February 2010, the Department of Energy announced $8.3 billion in loan guarantees to support the construction of two new nuclear reactors at a plant in Georgia. This will be the first new nuclear power plant constructed in the United States in three decades. To provide additional loan guarantees for other planned nuclear facilities, President Obama requested an increase in federal loan guarantee authority, from the current limit of $18.5 billion to $54 billion, in his fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget proposal. It is important to note that this authority regards authorization for loan guarantees, not funding for direct subsidies or payments. In addition to repaying the loans themselves, borrowers are required to pay fees to cover both administrative costs and risk of defaulting on the loan.
I support providing additional loan guarantee authority for the construction of new nuclear facilities. However, I have concerns that the fees charged to borrowers may be insufficient to cover the costs of the guarantee. In the past, the Congressional Budget Office has calculated that the Department of Energy often underestimates the costs of loan guarantees by at least one percent. As we consider increasing nuclear loan guarantee authority, I want to be sure that the federal government is collecting fees sufficient to cover costs and protect taxpayers.
Additionally, as our country moves to expand nuclear energy production and open new facilities, it is important that we address the issue of long-term nuclear waste disposal. Although funding for security measures has been increased in recent years, there is some concern that the number of storage sites presents an unnecessary security risk, and that a central repository would be a better solution to the issue of nuclear waste storage.
For more than 20 years, the Department of Energy has focused on developing a central repository for nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. This effort has been controversial, and opponents have argued that the potential for earthquakes, water infiltration, and other safety concerns make the site unsuitable. The President’s FY 2011 budget proposes eliminating funding for work at Yucca Mountain, and White House officials have stated that they will officially withdraw a pending license application for the facility. In January 2010, the Obama Administration announced the formation of a Blue Ribbon Commission charged with conducting a comprehensive review of nuclear waste management policy. It remains to be seen whether Yucca Mountain will provide the best option for long term storage for our country’s nuclear waste, or if another solution needs to be found.
There are many legislative proposals concerning nuclear power currently being discussed and debated in the Senate, addressing incentives for new commercial reactors, research and development priorities, plant safety and security, and radioactive waste management policy. During this session of Congress, the Senate may consider broad-based energy and climate change legislation. Should the Senate consider such legislation, ideas from many of the legislative proposals that have been introduced to address nuclear energy issues would likely be incorporated. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to find solutions to our country’s energy challenges.
Again, thank you for contacting me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance to you on this or any other issue.
United States Senator
United States Senator
P.S. If you would like more information about resources that can help Missourians, or what I am doing in the Senate on your behalf, please sign up for my email newsletter at www.mccaskill.senate.gov.
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