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Senate Endorses New Nuclear Power Plan

June 10, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Senate endorsed billions of dollars in government help for the nuclear industry Tuesday, despite criticism from some senators that it amounts to a givaway to a mature industry that should be left to succeed _ or fail _ on its own.

A group of senators, both Republicans and Democrats, tried to strip a broad energy bill of a provision that would give loan guarantees for construction of six next-generation nuclear power reactors. Their amendment was rejected narrowly 50-48.

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., the architect of the package of subsidies for the nuclear industry, said their approval will determine whether nuclear power remains a vital part of the nation’s energy picture. Nuclear reactors currently provide 20 percent of the country’s electricity.

``The time has come to quit playing around with energy and say wherever we can we are going to produce more energy″ and that includes nuclear, argued Domenici. He maintains that nuclear power long has been neglected and that that has been ``a giant mistake.″

Opponents questioned why nuclear power should be singled out for such a largess, which they said could cost taxpayers $14 billion to $16 billion should the future power reactors fail and be abandoned.

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