Nuclear industry will move forward, but not significantly

The much-heralded revival of the U.S. nuclear industry is moving at a less-than-explosive pace (ha ha!). The slow growth isn’t for lack of trying by the Bush administration, whose 2005 energy bill juices the industry with tax credits, insurance, loan guarantees, a ceiling on accident liability damages, and for all we know, free lollipops. For utility executives, though, the decision about whether to move forward with new plants is purely about reward versus financial risk — not, say, questions of safety and environmental impact — and neither risks nor rewards are clear. PPL Corp. runs two nuclear reactors, but chair William Hecht has declined to seek more, deciding that shareholder profit would be maximized by cleaning up PPL’s coal-fired plants. In contrast, delightfully named Constellation Energy CEO Mayo A. Shattuck III believes his company “can continue to do well in nuclear.” Nuclear power supplies less than 20 percent of U.S. electricity; more than 100 senior utility executives surveyed recently do not expect that number to rise.