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The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming addressed our nation's energy, economic and national security challenges during the 110th and 111th Congresses.

This is an archived version of the committee's website, where the public, students and the media can continue to access and learn from our work.

Markey: Chu Answer on Nuke Plant Loans-No Taxpayer-Backed Money Unless Plants Are Approved


Contact: Chairman Ed Markey, 202-225-4012

Markey: Chu Answer on Nuke Plant Loans—No Taxpayer-Backed Money Unless Plants Are Approved

Monitoring of Program, Designs Still Vital to Protect Public, Taxpayers, Says Chairman Markey

WASHINGTON (December 23, 2009) – Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu responded to Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) on questions about the nuclear energy loan guarantee program, especially reactors that could be awarded taxpayer-backed loans even when they have not received full approval for safety. Secretary Chu says in his response that “conditional commitments” could be made, but that “no [loan] guarantee will be issued with respect to a specific project and technology until the design is certified by the NRC and the [construction and operating license] has been issued.”

“Secretary Chu recognizes the inherent uncertainties in putting taxpayer dollars on the line for a nuclear power plant design that hasn’t yet been deemed to be safe,” said Rep. Markey, who chairs the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment in the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over DOE and the NRC. “This process needs to be monitored to ensure public safety, so that public dollars are responsibly provided only when the reactor is truly both safe and shovel-ready.”

Secretary Chu’s letter can be found here.

DOE will soon announce the winners of $18.5 billion in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees to the nuclear energy industry, but recent reports of still-uncorrected design flaws in leading designs led Chairman Markey to send a letter in early November to Secretary Chu about the handling of the loan guarantee program. That letter can be found here.

In today’s response, Secretary Chu notes that his agency is working towards conditional commitments for loan guarantees for nuclear energy designs, but that “a conditional commitment is not, of course, a guarantee; it simply sets forth the terms on which a guarantee may be issued.” He notes that those conditions include completion of an NRC certification of the design, which would include safety requirements. The funds would also have a time limit—or sunset—for the awardees if the conditions for receiving the funds are not met.

The NRC recently announced that the shield that protects the reactor against hurricanes, earthquakes and airplane impact in the AP1000 nuclear reactor design -- a leading design proposed by the Westinghouse Electric Company -- still requires additional analysis, testing or design modifications to comply with safety requirements.

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PLEASE NOTE: The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming was created to explore American clean energy solutions that end our reliance on foreign oil and reduce carbon pollution.

The Select Committee was active during the 110th and 111th Congresses. This is an archived version of the website, to ensure that the public has ongoing access to the Select Committee record. This website, including external links, will not be updated after Jan. 3rd, 2010.

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