.News Update 2/13/09

Nuclear Funding Cut From Stimulus Bill

February 13, 2009

In nearing a finalized version of its stimulus bill, Congress has cut $1 billion that had been allocated as funding for nuclear weapons. The stimulus bill, called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aims to create jobs, restore economic growth, and strengthen America's middle class. The Senate version of the bill included $1 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons program intended to be used for backlogged projects, nuclear energy initiatives, maintenance, and advanced supercomputers.

The funding was removed from the bill due largely to the hard work of grassroots activists concerned with the continued funding of nuclear projects. Non-governmental organizations, such as the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA), Peace Action West, the Council For a Livable World, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, sent out electronic action alerts voicing their concerns about the bill.

Nickolas Roth, program director of ANA, said, "[DOE] thought they could slip this in under the radar as a small part of a gigantic bill. These projects should go through the regular appropriations process or use existing funds and not pre-empt the Obama administration setting nuclear policy."

President Obama has made clear throughout his campaign and into his first days in office that nuclear weapons reduction will be a priority for this administration. Obama said, "A world without nuclear weapons is profoundly in America's interest and the world's interest. It is our responsibility to make the commitment, and to do the hard work to make this a reality."

The bill includes $6 billion allocated towards environmental management cleanup in the nuclear weapons complex, a promising step towards progress in the area of nuclear waste cleanup. Susan Gordon, director of ANA, noted that the administration is moving toward many promising goals. She said, "President Obama's support for a world free of nuclear weapons means that business as usual cannot continue []. DOE is decades behind in cleaning up the environmental legacy of past nuclear weapons production. Congress is sending a clear message that 'clean up, don't build up' is their new tenet."

In addition to the DOE funding cut, Congress cut out $50 billion for federal loan guarantees that would have gone to nuclear power plants. The provision for loan guarantees focused mainly on the building of new power plants, and would have more than tripled the amount of money authorized for new nuclear reactor construction.

Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, noted that the federal loan guarantees did not fit within the stated goals of the stimulus bill. He said, "This is nothing more than a pre-emptive bailout of the nuclear power industry. It would have no stimulative effect on the economy and would create no new jobs, since no reactors will be licensed or can even be started in the two-year periods the bill addresses. And if new reactors are built later, we will only add to the growing radioactive waste burden in communities across the country."

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