Nightly News   |  February 16, 2010

Obama gives new nukes federal guarantee

President Obama announced loan guarantees Tuesday for nuclear power plant construction in what many see as the start of America's nuclear energy renaissance. NBC's Anne Thompson reports.

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>> newsroom tonight. richard, thanks.

>>> in washington, president obama today announced more than $8 billion in federal loan guarantees that will pave the way for the first nuclear power plant built in the u.s. in 30 years. he's calling the project a job creator and a step toward helping control climate change , but his critics are openly wondering what it is he's up to. here is our chief environmental affairs correspondent anne thompson .

>> reporter: the laen guarantees announced today by president obama are the start of what many see as america 's nuclear energy renaissance.

>> to meet our growing energy needs and prevent the worst consequences of climate change , we'll need to increase our supply of nuclear power . it's that simple.

>> reporter: the $8.3 billion loans will help pay for two nuclear reactors in burke, georgia, the first new nuclear power plant in this country in nearly three decades. the obama administration says the plant will create 3,500 construction jobs, 800 permanent jobs and provide power to 1.4 million people without the carbon footprint from burning oil, coal or natural gas . unlike the alternatives of wind and solar, nuclear power is an on-demand energy source , available 24 hours a day.

>> what can nuclear power be used for?

>> reporter: david rat cliff is ceo of southern company that will build the reactors.

>> nuclear is essential for this nation in we are going to provide a secure and safe and reliable form of electricity and supply of electricity to this economy.

>> reporter: but some americans are haunted by the partial meltdown at pennsylvania's three mile island plant in 1979 . and the chernobyl disaster in the former soviet union that killed 56 people and led to thousands of cancer deaths. then there is the issue of what to do with the radioactive waste . america doesn't have a permanent solution.

>> there are reactors across this country that have tons of waste just sitting there, waiting for something to half.

>> how are you, sir?

>> reporter: the administration insists today's nuclear power is safe.

>> we feel very confident about the safety of the technology. a lot of advances have been made. this is a new technology. it will be thoroughly reviewed by the nuclear regulatory commission .

>> reporter: a controversial first step in creating an america that runs on clean energy . anne thompson , nbc news, new york.

>>> the president will take on