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U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa (above), this morning said he opposes a watershed announcement in what could be a revival in nuclear power. Four energy companies are expected to share in $18.5 billion in federal loan guarantees crucial in jump-starting new nuclear-plant construction as soon as 2011. The loans are awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy, headed by Secretary Stephen Chu, who The Wall Street Journal reports has made nuclear power a priority. “I am opposed to that,” Harkin said in response to a question from The Daily Yonder. “We’re going to be looking at that here in Congress.”

In a conference call with reporters Harkin said he would fight to see that the loan guarantees flow instead to wind energy, solar power, geothermal and other sources he believes are not fraught with as many environmental concerns. No new nuclear plant has gone online in 30 years since the 1979 meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. “I’m not hard and fast against nuclear power,” Harkin said. “The problem is there’s still no way to know of how to dispose of this waste. We just don’t know.”

He said the nuclear industry and its advocates have promised solutions on waste issues for a half-century and failed to deliver. “From 50 years we’ve never solved it,” Harkin said. “I think more and more you’re seeing more support for truly renewable energy.” Harkin also sees more nuclear power leading to increased weapons development. “I don’t care what you say, the more nuclear power plants we build, the easier it is to make nuclear weapons, period,” Harkin said. According to The Wall Street Journal, the four projects in the running for federal assistance for nuclear power plants are: UniStar Nuclear, Calvert County, Md.; South Carolina Electric & Gas, Fairfield County, S.C.; Southern, Burke County, Ga.; and NRG Energy, Matagorda County, Texas. Seventeen companies applied for $122 billion in loan guarantees for 21 proposed reactors, The Journal reported.

Douglas Burns

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