Kate Mackenzie Nuclear finance race heats up

The competition for US government assistance to build new nuclear plants is heating up. The Wall Street Journal says four power companies are expected to share in $18.5bn worth of loan guarantees to fund the construction of new nuclear plants. NRG Energy, SCANA, Unistar Nuclear Energy and Southern Co were the among 17 companies competing for financing.

There was no mention of Comanche Peak Nuclear Power, which Reuters reported in early May had dropped to fifth place as a ‘first alternate’ after those four likely successful applicants.

Finding adequate funding is one of the biggest challenges in building new nuclear plants, as they require huge investments and pay off over very long time periods.

The WSJ says government officials sought companies with “strong development teams and plans that could be implemented quickly”. They also looked favourably on those companies that could access finance from foreign partners; Unistar said it was involved in ‘complicated negotiations’ with the French government to access finance from the export credit agency.

It says the choice of utilities could “upend” the industry, as the first companies to construct new nuclear power plants will benefit under a carbon cap-and-trades scheme.

However as blogger Dan Yurman pointed out, some utilities, such as Florida Light & Power, are already beginning to form plans for a second round of projects.

Related links:

The revival of nuclear power gathers pace in Europe, but will a free market finance it? (FT Energy Source 13/05/09)