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  • bluecheese4u bluecheese4u Jun 23, 2013 2:38 PM Flag

    Natural gas boom cools nuclear prospects — for now

    Natural gas boom cools nuclear prospects — for now

    Posted on June 23, 2013 at 12:01 am by Emily Pickrell

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    Cheap natural gas, high construction costs and a disaster in Japan have combined to dim prospects for a resurgence in nuclear power — especially in Texas’ unregulated market where utility companies must bear all of the financial risk of building new plants.

    Because new technology has unlocked natural gas in shale formations, its price has dropped and its use as a power generation fuel has grown.

    “The shale gas situation is making it difficult for utilities to justify the cost of a new nuclear plant,” said Clayton Scott, chief nuclear officer for Invensys, a global technology company that provides control and safety systems to the power industry.

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    Despite the challenges, the government predicts that nuclear power will have a place in the nation’s energy mix for decades. Advocates tout its lack of greenhouse gas emissions, and market analysts note that natural gas isn’t likely to stay cheap indefinitely.

    Two nuclear power plants operate in Texas, providing about 12 percent of the power on the state’s electric grid. NRG Energy’s South Texas Project in Matagorda County, about 90 miles southwest of Houston, has two units with a combined capacity of 2,700 megawatts. Luminant’s Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant in Somervell County, about 40 miles south of Fort Worth, has a capacity of 2,400 megawatts from its two units.

    NRG is pursuing a permit for a future expansion at South Texas, but has no near-term construction plans. Exelon, which owns the largest nuclear fleet in the country, has dropped plans for an entirely new plant in Victoria Ccounty.

    New nuclear plants can take almost a decade to permit and build, and are costlier than other options.

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