On November 16, 2009, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Jim Webb (D-VA) proposed the Clean Energy Act of 2009, S. 2776, during the Winter Meeting of the American Nuclear Society.  The legislation would add $100 billion to the existing $47 billion in loan guarantees available through the Department of Energy (“DOE”) for clean energy projects.  The $100 billion would be used to double nuclear production within twenty years and specifically fund five “mini-Manhattan Projects.”

 Both Senator Webb and Senator Alexander have introduced the Clean Energy Act of 2009 in an effort to create bipartisan legislation separate from the Boxer-Kerry climate bill, S. 1733.  Senator Webb is considered a moderate Democrat and has separated himself from the Boxer-Kerry initiative by saying he would not support the current cap-and-trade climate bill in the U.S. Senate, which was approved by Senator Boxer’s (D-CA) Senate Environment and Public Works Committee earlier this month (see November 9, 2009 edition of the WER).  Meanwhile, Senator Alexander is the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference and previously released his blueprint to build 100 new nuclear power plants in 20 years.

 Senator Alexander has stated that although any clean energy project is eligible for the loan guarantees, the goal of the legislation is to assist building 100 new nuclear plants in the next 20 years.  Those new projects would create at least 250,000 new construction jobs according to the DOE.  The bill also includes $200 million per year for five years to help cost-sharing between the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the industry to review new reactor designs that should come to market.  Another $100 million per year for ten years is set aside to train nuclear engineers, operators, and craftsmen.  Finally, $750 million will be spent each year for ten years on five mini-Manhattan projects that will consist of research and development in the areas of carbon capture and sequestration, advanced nonethanol biofuel, electric car batteries, solar power, and nuclear fuel recycling.

 While some reports state that the Clean Energy Act of 2009 has a small chance of passing by itself, its provisions could eventually be used by Democratic leaders in an altered cap-and-trade climate bill.  The Clean Energy Act of 2009 can be read in its entirety at the Library of Congress’ website at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:S.2776:.