A new article in the business section of the New York Times by Matthew L. Wald explores the expansion of nuclear power in the US. In this article, the question is not if, but how fast?
With the federal government offering the nuclear industry $18.5 billion in loan guarantees and billions more in production tax credits and insurance against bureaucratic delays, at least a few new reactors seem certain to be built.It then goes on to discuss "two opposing viewpoints on expanding nuclear power," with Roger Gale, a former DOE official and consultant, presenting the slow and cautious approach, and General Electric's John Krenicki posing the case for a "large-scale campaign to build plants" to capitalize on economies of scale.
But how many?
Other people interviewed for this article include Michael Wallace, the chairman of UniStar Nuclear Energy, on his company's strategy for building multiple plants simultaneously and NEI's Richard Myers, who discusses the possibility of a large-scale construction of nuclear reactors in the US.
One thing that left me wondering, however, is the final paragraph. When discussing a future in which "companies line up to build nuclear plants," Mr. Wald concludes
Few American companies will be in the line. Of the four American companies that sold the bulk of nuclear reactors in the 1960s and 1970s, Westinghouse, the biggest, is now owned by a Japanese company, and General Electric is in a global partnership with a different Japanese company. The other two companies were absorbed by larger players.By "American companies," does Mr. Wald mean American-owned companies, companies that employ Americans, or what? What about the many companies that are hired as contractors for a project as large as the construction of a new nuclear reactor? Do they not count?
In a world with an economy that becomes ever more global with each passing year, it is hardly surprising that the few companies in the world that sell nuclear reactors are international companies. Perhaps Mr. Wald does not realize that one of the "other two companies" that he mentions -- what was once the civilian side of Babcock & Wilcox's US nuclear business -- is now part of the French-owned nuclear company AREVA, which is one of the key partners in UniStar Nuclear Energy, the company that is mentioned in his article.
Nevertheless, this article is definitely worth a look.