U.S. Representative Edward J. Markey is comparing the federal government’s loan guarantee program for new nuclear power plants to the much-aligned federal bailout program that bought up bad loans after the 2008 financial collapse.
The Malden Democrat, speaking today at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, warned that the loans will put taxpayers on the hook much as the Troubled Asset Relief Program took over defaulted loans after the financial collapse of 2008.
“They’re just like a toxic asset,” Markey said
Energy Secretary Steven Chu was present to testify at the hearing on the department’s 2012 budget, as well as that of the Nuclear Regulatory Agency. Much of the discussion centered on the disaster in Japan, and specifically on the damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
The president has asked for $36 billion for 2012 to provide loan guarantees, which Chu said would fund six to eight new projects. The administration has already made about $8 billion in loan guarantees available, which will help build a new plant in Georgia.
Committee member Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, asked Chu if the administration still supported nuclear power.
Chu hedged, saying: “The present budget is what it is. We’re asking for loan guarantees, and for small modular reactors.”
“So that’s a yes?” Barton said. “That’s a yes,” Chu responded.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.