Energy Secretary: Obama Still Wants New Nuclear Plants

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Energy Secretary Steven Chu told Congress Wednesday that the Obama administration remains committed to building new nuclear power plants in the United States, despite the unfolding nuclear debacle unfolding in Japan.

Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton pressed Chu on the new plants during a hearing of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Chu noted that the president’s budget calls for loan guarantees for new nuclear plants. “That position has not been changed,” Chu responded.

“Is that a yes?” Barton pressed about support for new nuclear plants.

“That is a yes,” Chu responded.

Chu quickly also said that the Energy Department would carefully review the events in Japan and apply safety lessons to existing and future nuclear plants. “We are going to look at what went wrong with this double-barreled whammy,” Chu said about the earthquake followed by the massive tsunami in Japan.

The president’s current budget requests $36 billion for loan guarantees for construction of new nuclear reactors. Around 20 percent of U.S. electricity is currently generated by nuclear power, which produces almost no greenhouse gases.