STP idled as Congress fails to kick in new billions for nukes

Greg Harman

[email protected]

After months of anxious waiting for news from the U.S. Department of Energy on needed federal loan guarantees, NRG Energy, one of the City of San Antonio's partners at the South Texas Project nuclear facility in Matagorda County, announced today it will idle payments into a planned two-reactor nuclear expansion on the Texas coast.

By reducing its monthly expenses by roughly 95 percent, partner Toshiba will be left carrying even more of the day-to-day responsibility for developing the site.

If that weren't bad enough, the pesky U.S. Department of Energy has been lobbying Japan and France to kick in more for what have become bi-national projects of sorts.

From the WaPo back in June (emphasis mine):

To stretch federal dollars across more proposed plants, the Energy Department has been lobbying the Japanese government to extend export credits and loan guarantees to the plants using Toshiba designs and to persuade the French export credit agency, Coface, to help back the Areva design at Calvert Cliffs. Those agencies usually help promote exports to poor or developing countries, not to aid a project in the world's richest economy.

NRG's CEO David Crane has said that the expansion of STP will only happen with federal loan guarantees like Georgia received back in February. But it appears not only U.S. taxpayer money will be needed to subsidize the nuclear revival in the States.

Karen Hadden, executive director of the Austin-based SEED Coalition and a vocal critic of nuclear power, sat in on NRG's shareholders meeting last week and said it was anything but “a pep rally for nuclear power," that at least as much interest was expressed about the dozens of electric-vehicle charging stations the company â?? through subsidiary Reliant Energy â?? will be building in Houston to enable the first generation of electric vehicles there.

Officials at the U.S. Department of Energy had expected to be organizing photo ops by now outside Bay City, Maryland's Calvert Cliffs, or both, to celebrate a new batch of federal loan guarantees for high-ranking sites. And yet Congress has failed to refill the DOE's loan program budget via Republican-resisted bills on climate change and clean energy. Although Obama is seeking another $50 billion for nuclear loans, the kitty has dwindled to about $10 billion this year.

Meanwhile, the energy bill coming to a Senate vote is an anemic version of what Democrats had hoped to see. All climate-related response have been drained and near-shore drilling in Florida and other not-so-goodies have been piled in.

Though Crane expected to hear something from the DOE by June, the agency is now saying one of the top-ranking projects will likely receive assistance

"by the end of this year."

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