Thursday, May 29, 2008

PA nuclear plant builder's future is glowing

Less than two weeks ago, we speculated in Nuclear power revival - real or just talk? about the prospects for the nation's nuclear power industry in light of rising oil and coal prices and climate-change concerns.

We noted that the Wall Street Journal had thrown some cold water on talks of a nuclear revival by reporting in an April 12 story that utilities taking a new look at nuclear power were stunned by "sticker-shock projections of between $5 billion to $12 billion per plant--double to quadruple earlier rough estimates."

That cautious note seemed to be reflected in regional plans.

New Jersey's largest utility, PSEG, had been speculating for months about the possibility of adding a new reactor to its generating station in South Jersey. But, in the WSJ story, PSEG's CEO Ralph Izzo conceded that, due to rising construction costs, his company may not be big enough alone to build a nuclear plant.

And in Pennsylvania, PPL took preliminary steps toward building another nuclear reactor about 75 miles northwest of the Lehigh Valley by informing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it might apply for a license. Note: that was a 'might.'

But this week there were indications that a nuclear industry revival might be getting real traction--and that an early beneficiary is Monroeville, PA-based Westinghouse Electric Co.

The company said on Tuesday that it has been picked to build two new nuclear power units in South Carolina. That announcement comes on the heels of news in April that Westinghouse was selected by Georgia Power to build the first new nuclear power plant in the nation in 30 years.

Westinghouse's partner in the South Carolina venture is The Shaw Group, a Louisiana-based engineering design and construction firm with regional operations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.

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