Energy Policy Tilts toward Nuclear; Billions in Subsidies May Flow to Long-Stymied Reactors
Byline: James G. Lakely, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Senate is at least a month away from passing a sweeping bill that would set a course for the nation's energy policy, but a big hurdle was cleared last week.
Sen. Pete V. Domenici, New Mexico Republican and chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, won a victory for nuclear power with the 50-48 defeat Tuesday of an amendment that would have killed a plan to subsidize the construction of new nuclear-power plants.
The plan, advanced by Mr. Domenici, would give the industry between $14 billion and $16 billion in loan guarantees. A bipartisan bloc of opponents criticized the guarantees as unnecessary.
"It's not a question about whether someone is pro-nuclear or antinuclear," said Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat and sponsor of the failed amendment, but whether "to put at risk the taxpayers of this country" with reactor projects that could flop.
Mr. Domenici has stressed for months that a new nuclear plant hasn't been licensed in the United States since the partial meltdown of a reactor at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island in 1979. The fear generated from that accident, which Mr. Domenici said was largely unwarranted, stalled the nuclear industry.
"The time has come to quit playing around with energy and say, 'Wherever we can, we are going to produce more energy,' " Mr. Domenici said. Nuclear power has long been neglected, he said, and that has been "a giant mistake."
"For the first time in modern history, we will adopt a pro-nuclear policy for the United States," Mr. Domenici said. "This victory is a victory for American consumers. It is a victory for families and small businesses that worry about the cost of lights, heat and air conditioning. It is a victory for industries that have increasingly felt the impact of rising natural-gas prices on their bottom line. …