3 energy consortia announce plans to build nuclear energy plants

April 26, 2004
12:00 AM
Washington, D.C. – Chairman Pete V. Domenici today welcomed news that three consortia of utility and nuclear power companies intend to build advanced nuclear reactors in the United States. One of the consortia, called NuStart Energy Development, asked the federal government today for funding to help prepare an application to build a reactor. Separately, a consortium of six companies applied to the federal government on Friday for a smaller grant to study building a reactor in northern Alabama. A third consortium of four companies applied on March 17th for a similar grant to build a new plant in Virginia. Chairman Domenici’s statement: “I hope this is the beginning of a nuclear renaissance in this country. I am delighted by the intent expressed by these three energy groups. I will, as I have always done, work tirelessly to further the cause of nuclear energy in Congress. “Nuclear energy makes more sense for this country today than ever before. Tight natural gas supplies and skyrocketing prices have prompted power companies to rethink natural gas. Uncertainty over future clean air regulations makes some companies hesitant to build more coal-fired plants. These events have evened the playing field for nuclear energy. “Nuclear power is clean, affordable and reliable. When the August 14th outage darkened the eastern seaboard, every affected nuclear power plant shut down properly and according to plant protocol. That underscores the safety of nuclear energy in this country. “I look forward to working with these utility companies in realizing the great promise nuclear energy holds for this country.” ### The attached New York Times story explains the membership and plans of the consortia; New York Times April 26, 2004 WASHINGTON, April 25 - Amid growing signs of interest in building nuclear power plants, a consortium of companies plans to ask the federal government on Monday for $400 million to help prepare an application to build a reactor. Separately, six companies applied on Friday for a smaller grant to study building an advanced reactor on the site of a twin-reactor project abandoned in 1988 as too expensive. The consortium first announced its interest in building a nuclear power plant on March 31, but it plans to tell the Energy Department on Monday that it has added two big partners, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Duke Power, a unit of Duke Energy. It will also provide a firmer budget for its work. The group, which has named itself NuStart Energy Development, initially included Exelon Nuclear, a unit of the Exelon Corporation; Entergy Nuclear, a unit of the Entergy Corporation; Constellation Energy; the Southern Company; and EDF International North America, a subsidiary of Électricité de France, which owns shares in reactors in the United States. The consortium also includes General Electric and the Westinghouse Electric Company, a subsidiary of BNFL, which was formerly British Nuclear Fuels Limited. The initial announcement by the consortium drew criticism from antinuclear groups, who complained about safety, vulnerability to terrorism and the problem of disposing spent fuel. According to people involved with the consortium, NuStart will argue that the sum it is seeking is modest relative to what the federal government has paid recently to subsidize other forms of energy research or production. "The country needs fuel diversity, and it needs energy independence from foreign energy sources," an executive involved in the NuStart group, who asked not to be identified by name in advance of the announcement. "This is an effort to provide the nuclear option," he said. In the 10 years ended in 2002, Nu- Start will point out, the Energy Department spent $482 million on fossil energy projects, including "clean coal;" $538 million on energy efficiency; and $446 million on solar and other forms of renewable energy. And in 2003, the government gave the wind industry $280 million in the form of a production tax credit. NuStart is applying for a dollar-for-dollar match, under a program called Nuclear Power 2010, whose goal is to have at least one reactor under construction by that year. It has not picked a site or a design, or even committed to build anything. Under the same program, on Friday a different group asked for help with a $4 million project to explore building a reactor in northern Alabama at the site of the Tennessee Valley Authority's Bellefont project. The T.V.A. stopped work on a twin-unit nuclear plant at Bellefonte in 1988, after spending $2.5 billion there. The new group includes T.V.A. and General Electric (which are both members of the NuStart group as well); Bechtel, an architect and engineering company; Toshiba; and USEC, a company that processes uranium for nuclear reactor use. On March 17, another consortium - made up of Dominion Resources Inc., Hitachi America, Bechtel and an American subsidiary of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. - also asked for financing. Joseph H. Davis, a spokesman for the Energy Department, said on Friday, "We welcome any and all applications under this program." But he added, "We haven't made a decision on when we're going to make a decision." In addition, the Energy Department does not have the money in hand to distribute. But there is some sympathy in Congress. In a statement, Pete V. Domenici, the New Mexico Republican who is the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, said: "I am absolutely delighted. I think that the market and regulatory forces that have put nuclear back into play will continue in the coming decade, and I think this is the first step in a continuing trend."