Why Obama decides to reactivate nuclear power projects?

09:43, February 19, 2010      

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U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday roughly 8 billion U.S. dollars worth of federal loan guarantees to build the country's first two new nuclear reactors in nearly 30 years.

Evidently, reacting to international energy competition, creating more jobs and promoting new energy resources are among the objectives for such a decision, analysts said.

Moreover, they said, by reactivating the nuclear power projects, President Obama also aimed to soften and finally overcome the Republican opposition to the Democratic-sponsored climate legislation.

ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS

Obama's decision was made at a time when the United States is facing increasing competition in the international nuclear power market.

The country has the largest number of nuclear power plants in the world, but old rivals such as Japan and France, and emerging economies such as South Korea and India, are catching up quickly in this area, the president told Americans on Tuesday.

The United States can't make mistakes in developing new energy resources, or it will have to import related technology from abroad, he warned.

Moreover, the president betted on new nuclear power projects to attract more investments and create more jobs, so as to fend off criticism on his administration's performance on employment.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu predicted that Obama's decision will eventually lead to the construction of 10 new nuclear power stations and boost the country's efforts to reduce green house gas emissions and to develop new energy resources.

It will also create 3,000 construction jobs and 850 permanent jobs, he told reporters.

POLITICAL CALCULATIONS

However, the president's plan of the new nuclear power program is not only driven by economic considerations, but also reflects his political calculations ahead of the fierce bipartisan fight in the upcoming midterm elections.

The House of the Representatives passed a cap-and-trade bill in June 2009, but the Senate hasn't decided when to start debate on the issue, partly because Republicans painted the legislation as "energy tax".

By relaunching nuclear power projects, an idea strongly favored by the Republicans, Obama hopes the opposition party will change its mind to support the cap-and-trade legislation in exchange.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president's decision demonstrated a willingness to reach out to the Republicans.

At present, three Senators each representing Democrats, Republicans and the independents have begun negotiations on the cap-and-trade bill.

Although Obama's nuclear plan won some support from the Republicans, he is confronting doubts within his own party.

Critics have warned about security risks and waste treatment problems involving nuclear power, and said investment profit from nuclear power is far less than that of other clean energy resources.

GLOBAL REACTIONS

The news about Obama's nuclear investment plan has spurred a debate in the global nuclear power industry, which is focused on how to make profits from the growing U.S. nuclear power market.

Some in the French press argued that AREVA and other world-class French nuclear power developers would gain from Obama's decision.

Japanese nuclear power equipment makers saw it as an opportunity for making more inroads into the U.S. market.

They also predicted that once the construction of the new U.S. nuclear power reactors begins, there will be much more fierce competitions in the global nuclear power market.

As the Obama administration decided to relaunch nuclear power projects, Germany is debating on whether to close all nuclear power stations by 2020 as scheduled.

German press thought that although Germany probably won't follow Obama's steps, the country's strategy for new energy alternatives, to be unveiled by October, will be affected by the U.S decision.

Source: Xinhua
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