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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Analysis: Companies race for nuclear plant

The United States may soon see a resurgence in nuclear power--if the government approves any of the applications for new power plants currently piling up in record numbers.

As of this month, nine different businesses have requested permission to build a total of 15 nuclear reactors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees U.S. nuclear power plant operation and licensing. The agency expects to receive applications for another 18 power plants, totaling 33 altogether, in the next year or so.

The last application the NRC approved was filed in 1974, and this recent onslaught of applications represents a steep rise in requests after a period of stagnation.

"We've had more applications, and there is an increase in the number of applications to build," said Ivonne Couret, public affairs officer for the NRC.

Several factors have influenced the recent rise in applications, including provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, experts say. The law provides risk insurance for companies venturing into the nuclear market after its 30-year lapse in growth.

But companies have to act fast to benefit from the insurance, which helps cover regulatory -- or litigation-related -- costs incurred in the application process through no fault of the company. The first two power plants to reach the construction phase can qualify for up to $500 million in coverage, and the next four up to $250 million. The availability of insurance has probably influenced the pace at which companies have begun to send in applications, said Eliot Brenner, director of public affairs for the NRC.

"Some companies are jumping in early to try and get these financial incentives," Brenner told United Press International.

(read more)

(Source: UPI)

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