HOUSTON May 7 Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Co's
two-reactor expansion planned in Texas has dropped to "first
alternate" in the heated competition for $18.5 billion in
government-backed loans that developers say will be critical to
advancing the first round of nuclear plant construction in
three decades, a spokeswoman said on Thursday.
A Department of Energy official confirmed that the agency
has cut to four the number of new nuclear projects being
considered for the first round of federal loan guarantees.
Nuclear power generates about 20 percent of U.S.
electricity and proponents say nuclear energy is attractive
because it emits none of the heat-trapping carbon dioxide and
other gases released by fossil-fuel plants, such as coal.
The Energy Department has selected projects for "final due
diligence and negotiations that may lead to a commitment for a
conditional loan guarantee," said another company spokesman
familiar with the process.
The energy agency has not identified any company seeking
federal support, but officials at another Texas nuclear
project, one in Maryland and one in South Carolina confirmed
earlier this year that they were among the five finalists for
DOE loan backing.
Those projects included NRG Energy's (NRG.N) two-unit
expansion at the South Texas Project in Texas; Unistar Nuclear
Energy's Calvert Cliffs 3 reactor in Maryland; and SCANA Corp's
(SCG.N) two-unit expansion at the Summer station in South
Carolina in conjunction with state-owned utility Santee
Also believed to be on DOE's short-list is Southern Co's
(SO.N) two-reactor expansion at the Vogtle nuclear station in
A Southern spokeswoman declined to comment specifically on
Vogtle's status in the DOE process Thursday. "We believe our
project is a good fit" for the DOE loan program, said Beth
Thomas of Southern's nuclear unit.
A spokesman for Dallas-based Luminant, part of Energy
Future Holdings, said Comanche Peak Nuclear was notified that
the project was not included in the next phase of DOE due
talks, but remains "the first alternate."
"We did not expected to be awarded a DOE loan guarantee yet
but we are encouraged that the program is moving forward," said
Ashley Monts of Luminant which is working with Mitsubishi Heavy
Industries (6502.T) to develop the new reactors.
Unistar spokeswoman Maureen Brown said the company has yet
to get official word of DOE's latest action, but is "eager to
move forward with due diligence and negotiations"
"It is our hope that, if notified, we would receive a
conditional commitment by year-end and begin preliminary site
work at the Calvert Cliffs site," said Brown of Unistar, a
joint venture of Constellation Energy CEG.N and EDF Group
(EDF.PA) of France,
Initially, developers of 14 new nuclear plants requested DOE
guarantees totaling $122 billion, far exceeding the program's
budget. Several companies dropped out, leaving 10 projects at
the end of last year.
With a cost of $5 billion to $12 billion for each new
reactor, depending on size and design, the DOE program is
expected to fund only a few projects, but developers have said
the guarantee is critical to obtaining financing.
(Editing by Christian Wiessner)