Jun 28, 2011

By The Associated Press

The main trade group for the nuclear power industry spent $545,000 in the first quarter lobbying about financial support for new reactors and safety regulations, according to a disclosure report.

The Nuclear Energy Institute spent 26 percent more than the $405,000 it spent in fourth quarter of last year and 21 percent more than the $430,000 it spent in the first quarter of 2010.

The nuclear crisis in Japan brought about by a March 13 earthquake and tsunami led in late March to the first of what are expected to be a series of government calls for tighter safety regulations for nuclear plants in the United States.

NEI, based in Washington, also lobbied for support for building new nuclear reactors and for funds for research and development for smaller, cheaper reactors.

Because nuclear reactors are complex and take years to build, they are extremely expensive. The industry has asked the federal government to guarantee construction loans to lower the overall cost of the new plants.

The George W. Bush administration set aside $18.5 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors. President Obama has proposed tripling the size of the program.

Only one loan guarantee has been awarded, however, to a new reactor being built near Augusta, Ga. Low electricity prices have forced utilities to scale back construction plans. Safety concerns stemming from the Japanese crisis have clouded hope for new reactors further.

Nuclear reactors produce about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity, but the country’s 104 reactors are aging. No new reactor has been planned and completed since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.

NEI also lobbied about clean water rules that affect how power plants of all types are cooled and about how the production and transportation of nuclear materials is regulated.

In the first three months of 2011, NEI lobbied Congress, the Commerce Department, the Defense Department, the Energy Department, the Homeland Security Department, the Executive Office of the President, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Office of Management and Budget, the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department, the Transportation Department, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Small Business Administration, according to the report filed April 19 with the House clerk’s office.

Lobbyists are required to disclose activities that could influence members of the executive and legislative branches of government under a federal law enacted in 1995.

Copyright © 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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