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US government revives the civil nuclear program

News brief


March 01, 2010

On January 27, in his State of the Union Speech, President Barack Obama cited the need to build “a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants” in the United States. AREVA welcomes President Obama’s position on nuclear energy that will encourage construction of new nuclear facilities.

On February 16, Barack Obama used his visit to the state of Maryland to announce the introduction of measures to revive the US nuclear power industry. The announcement therefore confirmed the points made by the President in his State of the Union speech on January 27, in which he made a clear commitment to build “a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants”.

In the first instance, the federal government will underwrite $8 billion (approximately €5.9 billion) in loans to the US power generator Southern Co., which plans to build two reactors in Georgia, both based on Westinghouse AP 1000 technology. This is the first time that the decision to build a nuclear power plant has been taken in the USA since Seabrook (New Hampshire) was ordered in 1977. The plant was commissioned in 1990.

The administration has decided to treble the envelope of guaranteed loans originally voted on in 2005, taking the total amount of central government funding for the first seven reactors from $18.5 billion to $54.5 billion (approximately €13.7 billion and €40.3 billion respectively) in the 2011 budget. Under the terms of this plan, four generating companies have been selected, including Unistar, the joint venture set up by Constellation Energy and EDF, which plans to build a third-generation EPR™ reactor developed by AREVA. The site earmarked for this new reactor is in Maryland.

There are now plans in place to build eight EPRTM reactors in the United States. In December 2009, the Group signed a letter of intent with a consortium of investors for the construction of one - possibly two - units in California. The Group employs nearly 6,000 people in the USA, making this the largest AREVA entity outside France. The Group intends to set up a plant in Virginia to manufacture major components, and to build a uranium enrichment facility in Idaho.

In another piece of good news, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) – the US nuclear safety authority – granted approval to the AREVA TELEPERM XS™ digital safety control system at the beginning of February. This approval means that the system can now be marketed to the US nuclear industry.

In terms of spent nuclear fuel management, President Obama has taken the decision to create a Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future tasked with “Reviewing all the options for managing spent nuclear fuel and civil and military nuclear waste”. The USA now has 104 nuclear power plants in operation, generating 20.2% of the country’s total electricity. The remainder comes from coal (44.4%), natural gas (23.7%), renewables (10.7%) and oil (1%).

Maintaining this percentage will require investment of around $280 billion.