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Obama Says Safe Nuclear Power Plants are a Necessary Investment

President Obama today said that safe, new nuclear power plants are a “necessity” as he announced more than $8 billion in federal loan guarantees to build the first nuclear power plant in three decades.

“Investing in nuclear energy remains a necessary step,” the president said today at the IBEW Local Headquarters in Lanham, Maryland, “What I hope is that, with this announcement, we’re underscoring both our seriousness in meeting the energy challenge and our willingness to look at this challenge, not as a partisan issue , but as a matter that’s far more important than politics because the choices we make will affect not just the next generation but many generations to come.”

Mr. Obama’s announced plans to break ground on two new nuclear reactors at a Southern Company plant in Burke, Georgia – which he said will create thousands of construction jobs in the next year – with 800 permanent, well-paying jobs in years to come.

“And this is only the beginning,” he promised, referencing his budget tripling loan guarantees to finance nuclear facilities across America which would spur more job creation.

Acknowledging that there are some “serious drawbacks” with respect to nuclear power that still need to be addressed -like the storing and disposal of waste safety– the president said the issue of safety would be an imperative going forward.

“That’s why we’ve asked a bipartisan group of leaders and nuclear experts to examine this challenge. And these plants also have to be held to the highest and strictest safety standards to answer the legitimate concerns of Americans who live near and far from those facilities.”

America’s competitors, Mr. Obama said, are racing ahead on this issue and he said he will not accept falling behind.

“Japan and France have long invested heavily in this industry. Meanwhile, there are 56 nuclear reactors under construction around the world; 21 in China alone; six in South Korea; five in India,” the president said, “Whether it’s nuclear energy or solar or wind energy, if we fail to invest in the technologies of tomorrow, then we’re going to be importing those technologies instead of exporting them. We will fall behind. Jobs will be produced overseas instead of here in the United States of America. And that’s not a future that I accept.”

Playing up the bipartisan appeal of his announcement, the president said that the announcement today is not welcome by all, but called for all to put the “same, old stale debates” behind them.

“Even when we have differences, we cannot allow those differences to prevent us from making progress,” he said, “On an issue that effects our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, we can’t keep on being mired in the same, old stale debates between the left and the right and between environmentalists and entrepreneurs.”

Addressing the environmentalists that are opposed to nuclear power, the president said that the one plant in Georgia will cut carbon pollution by 16 million tons each year when compared to a similar coal plan, similarly to taking 3.5 million cars off the road he said.

“The fact is, even though we’ve not broken ground on a new power plant, new nuclear power plant in 30 years, nuclear energy remains our largest source of fuel that produces no carbon emissions. To meet our growing energy needs and prevent the worst consequences of climate change, we’ll need to increase our supply the nuclear power. It’s that simple.”

On the other side, the president said that there are those who have long advocated for nuclear power – like Republicans – and called on them to also recognize that there also has to be a system created of incentives to make clean energy profitable.

“Energy leaders and experts recognize that as long as producing carbon pollution carries no cost, traditional plants that use fossil fuels will be more cost effective than plants that use nuclear fuel. That’s why we need comprehensive energy and climate legislation and why they legislation has drawn support from across the ideological spectrum.”

The president said that his administration will be working on “areas of agreement” to pass a bipartisan energy and climate bill in the Senate.

Before delivering remarks the president toured a training center at the IBEW Local 26 headquarters which includes application that are useful for clean energy and low carbon technologies – including the construction of nuclear power plants.

While inspecting a wall of alarms and indicators, the president was invited to push a button which set off an alarm.

“I need that whenever the press is around,” he said, joking and later adding that it was the first time since junior high he’s gotten a chance to pull a fire alarm without getting in trouble.