"WASHINGTON — In an effort to encourage nuclear power, Congress voted in 2005 to authorize $17.5 billion in loan guarantees for new reactors. Now, six years later, with the industry stalled by poor market conditions and the Fukushima disaster, nearly half of the fund remains unclaimed. And yet Congress, at the request of the Obama administration, is preparing to add $36 billion in nuclear loan guarantees to next year’s budget.
'My gut feeling is that there is going to be a delay,' said Neil Wilmshurst, a vice president of the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit utility consortium based in Palo Alto, Calif. News on Thursday that Exelon Corporation, the nation’s largest reactor operator, planned to buy a rival, the Constellation Energy Group, only reinforces the trend; until late last year, Constellation wanted to build, while Exelon was firmly against it.
Mr. Wilmshurst said the continued depressed price of natural gas had clouded the economics of new reactors, and he predicted that construction activity would “go quiet” for two to five years. His group has shifted its efforts to helping figure out how existing plants can extend their licenses to 80 years from the current limit of 60."