A nuclear power plant hasn't been built in the United States in two decades, but that could change in the next few years after a consortium announced locations in six states as possible sites for a nuclear renaissance.
Nuclear power consortium NuStart Energy on Thursday named the sites from which it will later pick two for which to apply for licenses to build and operate nuclear power plants.
Four of the six already house operating nuclear power plants. The sites, by location, are:
- Scottsboro, Ala. The Bellefonte Nuclear Plant, an unfinished site owned by the U.S. government's Tennessee Valley Authority.
- Port Gibson, Miss. The Grand Gulf Nuclear Station, owned by Entergy.
- St. Francisville, La. The River Bend Station, owned by Entergy.
- Aiken, S.C. The Savannah River Site, a U.S. Department of Energy nuclear weapons lab.
- Lusby, Md. The Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Plant, owned by Constellation Energy.
- Oswego, N.Y. The Nine Mile Point plant, owned by Constellation Energy.
All six sites chosen by NuStart are owned either by a consortium member or by the Department of Energy.
The consortium, which hopes to work on two advanced plant designs, said it expects to name the two finalists by October.
Global warming advantage
The last license to result in the construction and operation of a new nuclear plant in the United States was issued in 1973.
The U.S. nuclear industry has been virtually frozen since the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979, the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history. No company has followed through with plans to build a new nuclear plant since the accident.
However, President Bush has backed renewed construction of nuclear plants as part of his energy policy.
And, in an indication of a possible shift in public opinion, a few environmentalists have said they are willing to revisit nuclear power because, unlike fossil fuel, it doesn't produce emissions tied to global warming.
In addition, designs for new generation plants include smaller reactors that create less radioactive waste.
75 factors to be weighed
NuStart President Marilyn Kray said the four sites with operating power plants have the “most comprehensive licensing basis,” and the five sites housing power plants have the benefit of established transmission systems.
The consortium will evaluate the sites on 75 factors including seismic activity, availability of water and emergency preparedness issues.
It is also sending letters to state and local politicians and development leaders to determine what incentives they might offer to attract the plant.
Kray said Nustart is not particularly worried about protests from environmental activists at the local level, but does expect some resistance from environmentalists on the national level.
The NuStart consortium consists of nine utilities, including Exelon, Entergy, and Duke Energy, as well as nuclear reactor manufacturers GE Energy, a unit of General Electric, and Westinghouse Electric Co., a unit of BNFL Plc. (GE is a parent in the joint venture that owns MSNBC.)
Under the Department of Energy’s Nuclear 2010 program, half of the estimated $520 million cost of the project is being shouldered by the Energy Department and half will be paid by the consortium members.
The consortium expects to apply for licenses in 2008. Construction could then begin in 2010 with completion in 2014, NuStart said.
Reuters contributed to this report.