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Climate Bill Calls for 12 Nuclear Plants

May 18, 2010 - Timothy Gardner - scientificamerican.com

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The draft U.S. climate bill expected to be unveiled on Monday contains incentives to help build a dozen nuclear power plants, but delays emissions caps on plants that pollute large amounts of greenhouse gases, an industry source said on Friday.

The draft bill led by Senator John Kerry will contain loan guarantees, protections against regulatory delays, and other incentives that aim to help companies obtain financing for the nuclear plants, which can cost $5 billion to $10 billion to build.

"I think it's a start that combined with a price on carbon," could help the industry build new capacity, said the source, who had been briefed on a call held by Kerry on Thursday night with industry representatives.

Nuclear power plants emit almost no carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. But no new plants have won government approval in three decades, partially due to the high costs.

The bill is also slightly easier on big polluters, a move environmentalists said may help win the support needed from senators.

It contains a cap on emissions from power plants that would begin in 2013, a year later than had been outlined in previous legislation.

In addition, the value of permits in that market would be limited to an initial maximum of $25 per ton, to help reduce costs for polluters. Previously the senators had been aiming for a maximum price of $30 a ton.

Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, said the bill may contain items considered necessary to get votes.

Asked whether the legislation might be too weak from an environmental standpoint in order to lure Republican support, Claussen said, "No. People whose major concern is climate change have to temper their ambitions."

"The reality is you have to get 60 votes (in the Senate) for anything to happen," Claussen said.

The bill will be supported by the Edison Electric Institute, a leading power industry group, and three oil companies. BP, Shell and ConocoPhillips. EEI and the oil companies did not immediately return calls.