Head of GOP Solyndra probe rebuffs push for nuke loan inquiry

Republicans have been probing the loan guarantee for Solyndra, the California company that made innovative solar panels that did not rely on silicon.

The company received a $535 million Energy Department loan guarantee in 2009 but went bankrupt last year, after struggling badly due to a drop in silicon prices and other problems.

Stearns said Solyndra “did not have a promising future from the very beginning.”

Republicans have alleged that administration officials who backed Solyndra missed warning signs and mishandled taxpayer funds, and more broadly have used the company’s collapse to attack the White House’s green energy agenda.

They also alleged that the Solyndra guarantee was a gift to political donors, although they haven’t unearthed evidence that proves that.

Stearns said he’ll maintain his focus on Solyndra and several billion dollars worth of other renewable-energy-project loan guarantees.

“Right now we are concentrating on those loans that are at-risk,” Stearns said when asked about hearings or other oversight regarding the nuclear loan guarantee.

The furor over Solyndra comes as the Energy Department is preparing to approve an $8.3 billion loan guarantee to help Southern Co. add two new reactors to its Plant Vogtle power station in Georgia.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission last week voted to approve a license for the project, the first time the NRC has approved construction of a new reactor since 1978.

The NRC action likely paves the way for issuance of the Energy Department loan guarantee for the project. The guarantee received conditional approval in 2010.

Markey last year pressed the Energy and Commerce Committee’s GOP leadership to open an inquiry into the nuclear power loan-guarantee program.

On Monday he attacked Republicans for not objecting to the pending guarantee for Southern Co., which is more than 15 times larger than the one given to Solyndra in 2009.

“The Republican push for a loan guarantee for a nuclear reactor project exponentially riskier than Solyndra proves that their interests are not in financial stewardship but in political game playing,” Markey said.

Markey, in a letter Monday to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, pressed Chu not to finalize the nuclear loan guarantee until the Energy Department makes improvements to its loan program, as recommended in a White House-mandated report released last week.