Abandoned by those who were formerly some of his most loyal constituents, and attacked by his own party President Barack Obama has refused to back down from his nuclear vision.  (Source: The Unsuitable Blog)

Anti-nuclear protestors demonstrate against a pending Vermont plant. The protestors have vowed not to forget Obama's stand in the upcoming 2012 elections.  (Source: SF Bay View)

Despite this opposition Obama's nuclear visions is advancing with the securing of loans for two new reactor units at the Vogtle plant in Georgia (shown here), the activation of the first new nuclear fuel enrichment facility in 30 years, and public hearings on a proposed South Carolina plant.  (Source: NRC)
Nuclear plant, nuclear fuel facility, and loan agreements all advancing, despite protests

Breaking with many members of his party, U.S. President Barack Obama this year called upon the U.S. to regain its lead in nuclear power and embrace new clean nuclear technology.  The move was tremendously unpopular among some of his key constituents.

A February article in Mother Jones blasted the President, accusing him of be in the nuclear industry's pocket, writing:
With the leading projects in dissary (sic), why is the Obama administration rushing to put billions on the line to encourage new construction? The industry has been trying to get Uncle Sam to bankroll its comeback for more than a decade. Between 1999 and 2009, the industry poured more than $600 million into lobbying for its cause and spent almost $63 million on campaign contributions, according to a recent analysis from the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University. Republicans have long championed nuclear power, putting forward legislation that would call for the construction of 100 new nuclear plants in the next two decades. But the nuclear lobby's most ambitious goals were often stymied by Democrats in Congress—until Obama was elected and his administration began the push for (sic) climate bill.
That was just one of a host of rambling and angry commentaries attacking the President's stand.  Others included -- "Obama’s nuclear error: $54 billion in loan guarantees make little policy or political sense", "5 Reasons Why Nuclear Energy is Even Worse than Clean Coal", "Next in Line for a Bailout: The Nuclear Industry?", "There’s a New Drive for Nuclear Power, But It’s Still a Financial Dead End", "The loan arranger: Obama triples budget for nuke loan guarantee program… but hasn’t seen a single promising application in two years".

Undeterred, Obama has pressed ahead.  On June 10 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the startup of a $3B USD uranium enrichment plant in New Mexico, the first new nuclear fuel plant to start in over three decades. 

The NRC's landmark decision marked just one of several small victories for Obama's persistent push for nuclear.  It also bring the U.S. up to speed by activating superior centrifuging technologies that have been in place in Europe for over 30 years.  These technologies can improve the quality of fuel and reduce waste.

On June 17 the NRC made another important step towards America's nuclear future with a public hearing held on Duke Energy's pending proposal for a new nuclear plant in Gaffney, South Carolina.  The hearing featured some stiff opposition as a group called Friends of the Earth.  This group has been protesting the pending plant for months and has even aired television ads attacking President Obama's nuclear vision. 

And the most controversial aspect of Obama's plan, perhaps -- $54B USD in proposed loan guarantees for new nuclear plants -- is also gaining traction.  On Thursday Southern Power announced that its Georgia Power subsidiary has reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to receive $3.4B USD in Federal Financing Bank loans to build two new reactor units.

The new units still have regulatory hurdles to clear, but they now at least have an assurance that 70 percent of the necessary funding will be on hand, thanks to the government.  The new units, to be constructed at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, Ga., will create over 800 permanent jobs and provide as much as 2.5 GW of power.

Despite these small victories, President Obama's nuclear vision faces many impending obstacles.  Despite the fact that you could tear down one of the nation's old reactors, replace it with a dozen modern clean reactor designs and still have less net waste, some environmentalist groups remain adamantly opposed to new plant construction.  They have vowed to bury the bid for clean nuclear power under a flood of lawsuits.  If the suits succeed, they will raise the cost of nuclear so high, that it can't even compete with the most expensive forms of nuclear energy, like solar power.

And perhaps the biggest obstacle to Obama's nuclear vision will come in 2012.  That is the year when he will face reelection.  That may prove challenging given that one of his former key constituent groups -- the environmental lobby -- has become one of his staunchest critics.  Regardless, the U.S. is making its first true nuclear progress in 30 years, and that is among the many factors that will already make President Obama's presidency noteworthy.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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