- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 16, 2010

President Obama on Tuesday announced roughly $8 billion in federal loan guarantees to build the first U.S. nuclear power plant in three decades.

The president said the initiative was part of his administration’s ongoing effort to develop “safe, clean” energy and reduce the country’s dependency on foreign oil.

However, he also used the announcement to issue stern warnings about the United States falling behind others countries and about how upgrading the domestic power grid and making high-tech batteries in U.S. factories through the American Recovery Act is not enough.

“To truly harness our potential in clean energy, we’re going to have to do more,” the president said at an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers shop in Lanham, just several miles from the White House. “As we transition to cleaner energy sources, we’re going to have to make some tough decisions. Even as we build greater capacity in renewables like wind and solar … we’re going to have to build a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in America.”

Among those decisions is whether the United States should drill offshore for oil and gas, a plan on which Democrats and Republicans largely agree.

Plans are under way to build the next U.S. nuclear power plant in Burke County, Ga., which the president said also would create thousands of constructions jobs.

There are 56 nuclear reactors under construction around the world, including 21 in China, six in South Korea and five in India, according to the White House.

“Our competitors are racing to create jobs and command growing energy industries,” the president said. “So make no mistake: Whether it’s nuclear energy or solar or wind energy, if we fail to invest in the technologies of tomorrow, then we’re going to be importing those technologies instead of exporting them. We will fall behind. Jobs will be produced overseas instead of here in the United States of America, and that’s not a future that I accept.”

Though Republicans support the development of nuclear power, the president used the event as another opportunity to call for bipartisan efforts in Washington to solve the country’s problems. “We need comprehensive energy and climate legislation,” he said. “This legislation has drawn support from across the ideological spectrum. I believe there’s real common ground here. And my administration will be working to build on areas of agreement so that we can pass a bipartisan energy-and-climate bill through the Senate.”

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