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.
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In response to the senators' objections, an agreement was hammered out last month between the American Wind Energy Association and the United Steelworkers union to source more components from US suppliers. It's not clear if the senators will make similar requirements for loan guarantees for nuclear power. Calls and e-mails to the offices of three of the senators were not returned.Skip to next paragraph
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"Senator Brown believes that US tax dollars should be used to finance energy projects where the work is done in the United States," said Meghan Dubyak, a spokeswoman for Senator Brown, in response to e-mailed questions. "He is working to build a domestic supply chain for clean energy components – as a result of his intervention on the wind turbine sourcing issue."
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the trade group representing the nuclear power industry, dismissed the new study as full of "myths" about nuclear job creation. It noted that reactors built using loan guarantees to foreign-owned utilities would still create US jobs.
"Yes, the ultra-large forgings [for reactor vessels] can only be sourced from Korea and Japan," says Leslie Kass, senior director of business policy and programs for the NEI in Washington. "But the lion's share of the worker jobs created by reactor construction are thousands of construction jobs that have to happen here."
The French nuclear company AREVA and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, she noted, are building a new manufacturing facility in Newport News, Va., that will make reactor vessels, steam generators, and pressurizers, creating about 500 local jobs. Another manufacturing site in Port of Lake Charles, La., began assembling structural, piping, and equipment modules for new nuclear plants last year. That site will employ between 700 and 1,400 local workers at full capacity.
Southern Co., which received the first government loan guarantees, has said that about 80 percent of the funds spent on components and labor used in building two reactors at Plant Vogtle in Georgia will come from US sources.
Such arguments are no solace to David Herman, vice president of The Alliance for Generational Equity (AGE), who joined NIRS in a teleconference unveiling the activists' study. He noted that he and his group are not opposed to new nuclear power reactors, but are opposed to federal loan guarantees for them.
"If these companies controlled by French and Japanese interests want to finance new reactors and find investors who want to support that, they have our blessing," he told reporters. "But we are not prepared as US taxpayers to allow seniors and other Americans to be ripped off by yet another multibillion-dollar bailout for another industry.”
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