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16 February 2010

Obama Sets Funding Help for First New Nuclear Plant in Decades, February 16, 2010

By VOA News

U.S. President Barack Obama says the government will guarantee more than $8 billion in loans to help build the first new American nuclear power plant in decades.  The project is expected to produce roughly 4000 new jobs.

The president says clean, safe nuclear power is vital to the nation's future. “To meet our growing energy needs and prevent the worst consequences of climate change, we will need to increase our supply of nuclear power.  It is that simple,” he said.

He says the government is getting involved by guaranteeing loans to meet the high costs of nuclear plant construction — starting with $8.3 billion to help fund the new plant in the state of Georgia. “This one plant, for example, will cut carbon pollution by 16 million tons each year when compared to a similar coal plant.  That is like taking 3.5 million cars off the road,” said Mr. Obama.

But the president stresses the project in Georgia will do more than provide electricity for over one million people. “It is a plant that will create thousands of construction jobs in the next few years, and some 800 permanent jobs — well-paying permanent jobs — in the years to come,” he said.

The president made the announcement while visiting a job training center run by a union representing electricians and telecommunications workers near Washington.  The center teaches a variety of high-tech skills, including those needed for the construction of nuclear power plants. 

Sensitive to nationwide concerns about the stubbornly high unemployment rate, the president stressed the link between the economy and boosting alternative sources of energy.  He warned the United States is already lagging behind other countries in building nuclear power plants — citing heavy investments in Japan, France and elsewhere.

“There are 56 nuclear reactors under construction around the world: 21 in China alone; six in South Korea and five in India,” said the president.

Mr. Obama acknowledged that there are opinion differences in America on the use of nuclear power.  He stressed the nation cannot continue to be mired in the old debates between right and left, and between environmentalists and entrepreneurs.

“The fact is, changing the ways we produce and use energy requires us to think anew, it requires us to act anew, and it demands of us a willingness to extend our hand across some of the old divides,” he said.

No new plants have been built in the United States in almost three decades, in large part because of the high cost of construction and lingering concerns about safety.   Nuclear plants currently provide about one-fifth of the nation's electricity.

This report was provided by VOA News.

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