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US-backed loans to expand nuclear power: a boon for overseas jobs?

A report released Thursday finds that all 18 firms lining up for tens of billions in US-backed loans for new nuclear power plants would use overseas jobs to build most of them.

By Staff writer / July 2, 2010

A Nov. 3, 2008 file photo showing one of Pacific Gas and Electric's Diablo Canyon Power Plant's nuclear reactors in Avila Beach, California. Firms trying to get US-backed loans to build more nuclear power plants might create overseas jobs.

Michael A. Mariant/AP Photo, File

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Nuclear power opponents and taxpayer groups on Friday took fresh aim at new nuclear reactor projects, hopping aboard a movement in Congress to oppose taxpayer support for power projects that might benefit foreign companies and overseas jobs.

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While activists have long claimed Congress and the White House would be fiscally irresponsible to grant loan guarantees for new nuclear power reactor construction due to projected high default rates, the groups for the first time Thursday released a report citing the loan guarantees' bolstering of foreign jobs and overseas ownership.

As it turns out, all 18 corporate applicants seeking permits for new US nuclear power reactors – and lining up for tens of billions in federal loan guarantees – plan to use foreign manufacturers and labor to build major parts of those reactors.

That's according to a new report by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, based in Takoma Park, Md., citing data gleaned from filings with the Nuclear Regulator Commission. The service, with the Association of Concerned Taxpayers and the Alliance for Generational Equity, said a few utilities now seeking US loan guarantees for nuclear projects were also largely foreign-owned.

“Nuclear power is US-made power only in the same way that a shirt made in China is ‘American’ because you buy it at a Wal-Mart in this country," said NIRS executive director Michael Mariotte in a teleconference. "If American taxpayers were upset about bailing out US banks and car companies, they should be furious about being put at risk in order to fatten the bottom line of overseas nuclear companies.”

The NRC filings, he said, show that all 18 pending reactor projects in the US feature reactors designed by French and Japanese companies. "Nearly all of the immediate employment benefits of the loan guarantees will flow to non-US workers, since virtually all major reactor components are made outside of the United States by foreign companies," Mr. Mariotte said.

Most of the nuclear reactors' massive parts would be built by majority-owned foreign companies such as GE Hitachi, AREVA, and Westinghouse (Toshiba) in their overseas factories.

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