Utilities not as hot for new nuke plants as Bush is

Not everyone is as cuckoo for new nuke plants as President Bush, not even the nation’s electric utilities. Though some power companies have shown some interest in planning for future nuclear power plants in the U.S., experts concede the stars are not aligned just yet to make nuke power palatable to energy companies. The cost of building a new nuke plant starts at around $1 billion; add to that the well-known risks and you have enough to deter most investors unless there’s substantial federal assistance. “The abiding lesson that Three Mile Island taught Wall Street,” said former Nuclear Regulatory Commission member Peter Bradford, “was that a group of NRC-licensed reactor operators, as good as any others, could turn a $2 billion asset into a $1 billion cleanup job in about 90 minutes.” But with the rising costs of natural gas and the growing likelihood of a carbon tax in the next decade, NRC chair Nils Diaz expects five or six applications to be submitted for new U.S. nuke plants by 2008.