The Debate on Nuclear Loan Guarantees

Jack Spencer /

The debate over nuclear power in recent months has revolved around taxpayer backed loan guarantees for new nuclear projects. Not only has the President announced $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees for a two-reactor project in Burke County, Georgia, his budget proposal includes tripling the nuclear loan guarantee program from $18.5 billion to over $54 billion.

Unfortunately, some groups have used this debate to disguise their anti-nuclear agenda in anti-loan guarantee rhetoric. The basic construct of their argument is that nuclear energy is so risky and so expensive that using government backed financing subjects the taxpayer to unreasonable risk. The problem is that they often not only misrepresent facts about loan guarantees and what risks they pose, but also about nuclear energy broadly to make their case. Misrepresenting the facts not only undermines the legitimacy of their argument but takes away from a very important debate over whether or not loan guarantees are an appropriate tool for financing new nuclear (or any other energy source) projects.

While The Heritage Foundation is opposed to expanding the nuclear loan guarantee program, we believe that it is critical that the debate be informed by facts. The Nuclear Energy Institute’s 13-page report in response to some of the misleading rhetoric helps do exactly that. By answering in detail many of the unfounded criticisms used to advance the anti-nuclear agenda, NEI sets the stage nicely for where the debate should be: on the efficacy of loan guarantees.