"Nuclear Projects Face Financial Obstacles"

"Hopes for a nuclear revival, fanned by fears of global warming and a changing political climate in Washington, are running into new obstacles over a key element -- money.

A new approach for easing the cost of new multibillion-dollar reactors, which can take years to complete, has provoked a backlash from big-business customers unwilling to go along.

Financing has always been one of the biggest obstacles to a renaissance of nuclear power. The plants are expensive, and construction tends to run late and over budget. The projected cost for a pair of proposed Georgia plants would be $14 billion; the Obama administration last month pledged to provide them with $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees.

So utilities have turned to state legislators and regulators to help contain capital costs. In states such as Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, utilities have won permission to charge customers for some of the cost of new reactors while construction is still in progress -- a financing technique that would save utilities a couple of billion dollars for each reactor. Previously, utilities had to wait until power plants were in operation before raising rates, as they still do in most states."

Steven Mufson reports for the Washington Post March 2, 2010.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010