Monday, April 20, 2009

The Future of New Nuclear Power Plants Is At Calvert Cliffs

If there is to be a renaissance in building new nuclear power plants, it will be decided at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant site in Maryland. Located on the Chesapeake Bay, this power plant was the first one to get relicensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Recently, the Center opposed Warren Buffet's attempted purchase of Constellation Energy's nuclear unit and supported the bid by Electricite de France (EdF). We made that decision because we knew Buffet would not build a new plant. We know that EdF, with French government backing, can and will build a third unit with the attendant cooling tower.

Because the price of nuclear power plants has increased so much over the past 8 years, even the consortia among nuclear utilities will be hard pressed to get a weakened Wall Street (to put it mildly) to put up the $6-$10 billion for a new nuke. EdF purchased the nuclear unit for a couple billion or so less. So even though some applications are being processed, at $100 million just for the license to build, the nuclear industry is going to be hard pressed to pull off the needed renaissance in construction of new plants. Plus, new plants will have to have cooling towers. If EdF can start construction, the flood gates could open and the new nuclear power plant construction could begin. However, because EdF is a foreign company, a war of epic proportions will be fought.

The war will pit the nuclear industry coalition against the newly formed Chesapeake Safe Energy Coalition (CSEC). The Center will watch this war with interest because, although we support nuclear power and the third reactor at Calvert Cliffs, both coalitions are hostile to the Center and we are ignored by Constellation Energy. Maybe EdF will see that the Center 'called the shot' on rejecting the Buffet deal and will seek our counsel.

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