Mother of all Solyndras: $6.5 billion in subsidized nuke loans to Vogtle goes final today; $1.8 billion more to follow soon

Homeowners are lucky if they get a 60 day rate lock on their mortgage application.  Nuclear reactor developers seem to have no such problem:  agreements for multi-billion dollar subsidized loans to build two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in Georgia have been repeatedly extended for four years.1  A credit market mel

Review of Documents Pertaining to Department of Energy Conditional Loan Guarantees for Vogtle 3 & 4

Hundreds of documents released from DOE under a Freedom of Information Request and subsequent litigation shed new light onto DOE's management of an $8.33 billion loan guarantee on offer to support the construction of two new nuclear units at the Vogtle reactor in Georgia.  The documents raise questions about how project risks were screened, the loan terms in the conditional committment agreement provided by DOE, the adequacy of the credit subsidy payments from borrowers to the US Treasury under the deal, and involvement by political appointees focused on getting the deal done.

DOE Loan Guarantees: Jonathan Silver Falls on Sword, Joins Third Way, Likely to Continue Washington Way

As fallout from the Solyndra bankruptcy continued to build, Jonathan Silver, Executive Director at DOE's Office of Loan Programs finally stepped down.  This outcome couldn't have been a total surprise for him:  Silver came from a venture capital background, knew the failure rates of DOE's projects would likely be high, and understood that the bets DOE was making were orders of magnitude larger than what had been done before.  In an interview with Politico earlier in the year,

As the Guarantees Turn: October Wrap-Up

1)  Don't Prop up USEC.  Henry Sokolski of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center and Autumn Hanna at Taxpayers for Common Sense weigh in at the National Review Online on a proposed $2 billion dollar loan guarantee to finance new enrichment facilities for the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC).  USEC is the privatized residual of the government-run Uranium Enrichment Enterprise that ushered in the US nuclear era.  In Another So

Energy loan guarantees are not a "normal" federal lending program

Defenders of Title 17 energy loan guarantee programs periodically point to the many other areas of the economy in which the government makes direct loans or guarantees.  They use the other programs as evidence for two main points: that the government is experienced and skilled in leveraging public credit to support private activities; and that what is being attempted in the energy sector is no different from what lots of other industries already get.  A recent commentary by Mark Muro and Jonathan Rothwell

Markey: If you are shining the light on lending to Solyndra, can you spare a few rays to look at nuke loan guarantees too?

Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) sent an interesting letter to Fred Upton (R-MI) late last week.  The correspondence outlined some of the history of the Title 17 loan guarantee program and the nuclear industry's push to make it their own.  It also included examples of the role the Nuclear Energy Institute played to weaken federal recourse in a loan default, and the pressure it brought to bear to expedite loans to its members.  These are indeed crass examples of political lobbying that put billions (and potentially tens of bil

Missing the point of the Solyndra bankruptcy

Those of us who have been railing on the government's increasing push to make massive loan guarantees available to individual energy firms are not surprised to see the first major bankruptcy.  Solyndra went down with $535 million in federal guarantees for lots of reasons.  The marketplace is increasingly competitive.  Power prices have fallen due to recession and fracking-induced reductions in the cost of natural gas.  China subsidizes its solar production, artificially manipulates exchange rates, and there is a growing supply overhang as PV subsidies in Europe get cut.  New technologies lo

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