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SMR subsidies are uniquely unpopular now

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SMR subsidies are uniquely unpopular now

Greenwire, 9-24, 12, http://www.eenews.net/public/Greenwire/2012/09/24/3 “DOE Funding for Small Reactors Languishes as Parties Clash on Debt”
Likewise, top energy officials in the Obama administration have hailed the promise of the new reactors, and they haven't shown any signs of a change of heart. DOE spokeswoman Jen Stutsman said last week that the department is still reviewing applications, but she did not say when a decision will be made. "This is an important multiyear research and development effort, and we want to make sure we take the time during the review process to get the decision right," she wrote in an email. That the grants haven't been given out during a taut campaign season, even as President Obama announces agency actions ranging from trade cases to creating new national monuments to make the case for his re-electionmay be a sign that the reactors are ensnared in a broader feud over energy spending.Grant recipients would develop reactor designs with an eye toward eventually turning those into pilot projects -- and the loan guarantees that these first-of-a-kind nuclear plants are using today to get financing would be blocked under the "No More Solyndras" bill that passed the House last week (Greenwire, Sept. 14). Congress has given the grant program $67 million for fiscal 2012, shy of the amount that would be needed annually to reach full funding. If the "sequester" kicks in at year's end and slashes DOE funding or the balance of power changes in Washington, the amount of money available could dwindle yet again. Even the staunchest supporters of the federal nuclear program are acknowledging it is a tough time to promise a $452 million check. Former Sen. Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican who pushed for new reactors as chairman of both the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, said during a brief interview Tuesday that well-designed loan guarantees won't cost too much because they get repaid over time. The cost could be borne by a "tiny little tax" on the nuclear industry, he said. But when it comes to straight-up spending, like the grants that would support getting these cutting-edge reactors ready for their first demonstrations, the solution may not be so clear. While some Republicans remain staunch supporters of funding for the nuclear power industry, there are others who label the government subsidies as a waste of taxpayer dollars. "It's awful hard, with the needs that are out there and the debt that haunts us, to figure out how you're going to establish priorities," said Domenici, who has advocated for the deployment of new nuclear reactors as a fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center. "I can't stand here and tell you that I know how to do that."

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