by Jason Hopkins
Energy Secretary Rick Perry took a shot at the Democratic Party’s latest environmental proposal as he visited a nuclear plant’s construction site.
“Ladies and gentlemen, look around you,” the president’s top energy official said Friday to a crowd of nuclear power plant employees in Waynesboro, Georgia. “This is the real new green deal.”
Perry was speaking in front of a construction site for the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, where crews are working on completing two new reactors — the only nuclear reactors under construction in the entire country. The energy secretary revealed the plant’s majority owners would receive loan guarantees to keep construction on the two reactors — Units 3 and 4 — moving forward.
The federal government is guaranteeing up to $1.67 billion in loans for Georgia Power, up to $1.6 billion for Oglethorpe Power and up to $414.7 million for the MEAG Power. All three electric utilities are co-owners of the Vogtle plant. The loan guarantees — which Perry said would help make “nuclear America cool again” — are to help the Vogtle finish construction of the two reactors.
Units 3 and 4 were originally planned to be completed by 2017, but now Unit 3 will not be ready to be loaded with fuel until 2020, and Unit 4 won’t go online until 2021. Construction was originally expected to cost $14 billion, but now its final projection is nearing double that amount.
Vogtle’s problems have been more or less symbolic of the entire U.S. nuclear industry.
Buckling under the weight of a tough utility market, the country’s nuclear fleet has witnessed steady decline in recent years. Competing against subsidy-backed renewables, cheap natural gas and burdensome regulations, numerous nuclear plants have shuttered. Six facilities have closed since 2013. Nine other plants are forecast to close down by 2025.
However, the Trump administration has worked to stave off the closures of nuclear plants, recognizing the need for its dependable generation of electricity. Perry put forth a plan during his first year in office to help subsidize ailing nuclear and coal plants, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously rejected it.
The energy secretary has continued to tout coal’s and nuclear’s reliability. This is a stark contrast to intermittent power sources such as solar and wind, which don’t generate energy when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.
“When you flip on that light switch, when you turn on the air conditioner in the summertime, we take it for granted,” Perry said to the press in Georgia. “It’s about our national security. It’s about the security of our families. It’s about the comfort of our homes.”
Nuclear power supplies 20 percent of the country’s total electricity, but it provides about 60 percent of the country’s total zero-carbon electricity. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, found that power sector emissions would rise 4 to 6 percent if no policy changes are made.
Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz is preparing to unveil a Republican version of the Green New Deal. Unlike the proposal heralded by New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Gaetz’s bill takes a positive look on nuclear.
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Jason Hopkins is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation. Follow Jason on Twitter.