Thursday, October 2, 2008

Timing so bad it's downright nuclear

Talk about bad timing!

While outraged taxpayers across the nation on Monday watched Congress tie itself up in knots over the Bush Administration's proposed $700 billion banking industry bailout, a giant energy company in Pennsylvania was asking Uncle Sam for a multi-million-dollar loan guarantee so it can build another nuclear plant on the Susquehanna River.

Hard to believe--and basically unreported in the mainstream media--but true.

PPL Corporation on Monday submitted a loan guarantee application to the U.S. Department of Energy. The company also is preparing an application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a combined license to build and operate Bell Bend. That's the name PPL has given the new nuclear plant it proposes to build on a site near the company's existing two-unit Susquehanna nuclear power facility.

In a news release reporting on its application, PPL fails to mention the size of the guarantee it is seeking. But you know the number can't be a small one, because the company adds:

"Without federal loan guarantees companies like PPL will not be able to secure financing for the substantial cost of building new, advanced-design nuclear energy plants that will help this country achieve challenging limits on carbon dioxide emissions, as well as energy independence."

PPL notes that, in authorizing the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress appropriated $18.5 billion for the federal loan guarantee program "to support projects that avoid greenhouse gas emissions and employ new technologies" and that Congress "intended that all costs of the program be paid by the industry at no cost to taxpayers."

The last six days of near chaos in Congress raises the question, however, of whether any such appropriation can now be counted upon, as the nation's spending priorities shift under the crushing burden of the anticipated banking bailout, a continuing economic slowdown and the war in Iraq for which $600 billion has been appropriated through FY 2008--and which could total as much as $1 trillion by the time it ends, according to Congressional estimates.

As ill-timed as the loan guarantee application might be, PPL probably had no choice as the second part of the loan guarantee application faces a Dec. 19 deadline.

Duke Energy also filed on Sep. 29 for a federal loan guarantee for the William States Lee III Nuclear Station which it proposes to build in Cherokee County, S.C.

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