Monday, September 19, 2005

Companies Plan Nuclear Power Plants

RedNova News - Science - Companies Plan Nuclear Power Plants



WASHINGTON -- Twenty-seven years have passed since a business ordered a new nuclear power plant in the United States, but two energy companies Thursday announced a joint venture to seek a license for a new nuclear plant by spring 2008.

Constellation Energy, a Baltimore-based electric company, and Areva, a French-owned nuclear reactor manufacturer, are forming UniStar Nuclear with the goal of launching a new era of nuclear power plants in the United States.

Bechtel Power Corp. would build the new plants.

"Over the past decade, America's energy consumption has grown about 40 times faster than our production," said Michael Wallace, executive vice president of Constellation Energy.

"Nuclear power is the one energy source that is completely domestic, environmentally friendly and able to generate massive amounts of electricity," Wallace said.

Citing a favorable market and helpful provisions in an energy bill recently signed into law by President Bush, Wallace and Areva Chief Executive Officer Thomas Christopher said they hope to start building new nuclear power plants in the United States by 2010 and operating them by 2015.

"For the first time in at least a generation, we will be making large nuclear components for commercial nuclear plants in the United States," Christopher said.

Radioactive waste from the new plants probably would be stored at a repository at Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

"We believe Yucca Mountain needs to be the ultimate solution to spent fuel high-level waste storage," Wallace said.

But even if a Yucca Mountain repository is not ready, new nuclear power plants would continue to have the options of on-site storage, Wallace said.

Commonwealth Edison was the last company to order a new nuclear power plant, in December 1978 in Carroll County, Ill., a spokesman at the Nuclear Energy Institute said.

The April 1979 partial meltdown of a core reactor at the Three Mile Island power station near Harrisburg, Pa., is cited as the reason new nuclear power plants have not been ordered.

Bob Loux, chief of Nevada's Nuclear Projects Agency, said he is unconcerned about the possibility that new nuclear power plants will increase pressure to open a repository at Yucca Mountain.

"I believe Yucca Mountain is never going to open," Loux said.


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