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Letter to the Editor: 'U.S. Nuclear Leadership at Risk'

2:09 PM, Feb 13, 2012 • By THE WEEKLY STANDARD
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Today, this country faces a stark choice about its global nuclear leadership. Without the American Centrifuge the U.S., for the first time since the dawn of the nuclear age, will lack a U.S.-controlled source of enriched uranium. That absence will undermine our energy security, threaten our national security and erode our standing in global nonproliferation initiatives.

WEEKLY STANDARD contributor Henry Sokolski responds:

Bailing Out USEC Risks Our Government's Credibility

USEC's Mr. Jacobson gets one thing right:  My original piece, "National Secuirty and Crony Nuclear Capitalism" had a typo that resulted in a misspelling of Piketon, the location of USEC's proposed new uranrium centrifuge enrichment plant.  Although this was corrected immediately, Mr. Jacobson leads with this and gives it considerable play.  Given the balance of his effort to "set the record straight" it is easy to see why.

Mr. Jacobson's main contention is that I was wrong to refute USEC's key national security arguments for securing more government subsidies for its centrifuge uranium enrichment project.  What's awkward here is that it was not I who made the point-by-point refutation, but Department of Energy analysts in a detailed, official internal memo that my piece cited and provided a hyperlink to.

For some reason, Mr. Jacobson ignores this memo's existence and instead tries to prove his case by quoting the Department of Energy's public statements and those of Secretary of Energy, Dr. Chu. There's no denying that they have publicly parroted the national security talking points that USEC makes.  What's worrisome and what should be a matter of Congressional investigation, though, is that given the internal Department of Energy memo I cite, each of their statements appears to be dead wrong.

Finally, although a few hundred permanent (and many more short-term construction) jobs might be created if the USEC project sorts out its technical glitches (which include a recent "system failure" that prompted the  destruction of several centrifuges), getting this project completed and profitable enough to avoid going bust is super unlikely. That's why USEC cannot get any private investors to cover the project's remaining costs and why it desperately needs a $2 billion federal loan guarantee.

As for the proposed recipient paying the loan back, we've heard this before:  It was called Solyndra, it was supposed to be a major money maker, and it too had Department of Energy's and Secretary Chu's public backing. The U.S. taxpayers are now being forced to bailout those who invested in it. As I noted in my piece, on this score, once is more than enough.

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