Dear President Obama:
I was very glad to hear you talk about clean energy in your State of the Union address the other night.
However, I'm concerned about your apparently uncritical support of nuclear power. While I think that nuclear power is going to have to be part of the mix as we move toward carbon-neutral energy sources, I have many concerns. I have always been pretty strongly opposed to nuclear power in general, until I read the book "Physics for Future Presidents", by Richard Muller. He details how nuclear power can be much safer, using pebble bed technology rather than the older reactor & cooling tower technology. Pebble bed reactors are much safer, since the fuel is embedded into pebbles, which are self cooling and will never create an out of control chain reaction. However, current law in the U.S. requires all reactors to have a cooling tower, which would be redundant in the case of a pebble bed reactor. The pebble bed reactors can also re-use their fuel, which saves money in mining and operation costs. If we are going to have a new generation of nuclear power in this country, it ought to be the best, safest technology available.
Though I do think nuclear power must be part of the mix, I would like to also see a strong focus on developing renewable energy sources that create less waste, perhaps 1/3 of all R&D money spent.
The proposed $54 billion of loan guarantees to the nuclear industry in the FY2011 budget is a terrible start to a clean energy future. First, without changing the laws to allow, and perhaps require, pebble bed reactors, we would be installing second rate technology, which will not further our goal of creating cutting edge jobs in cutting edge industries. Second, the Congressional Budget Office has said it believes as much as 50% of the loans could default. This is a terrible gamble that even banks don't want to take. Why should the American taxpayer take it?
I hope you will follow through on your intention to use the best available information to make decisions, and withdraw your support for this boondoggle. We can have a clean energy future, and cutting edge nuclear power, without throwing $54 billion of unconditional loan guarantees at the nuclear power industry.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.