Constellation, Progress Energy Join Growing Number of Utilities Considering New Nuclear Projects

In the wake of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a growing number of new nuclear projects are in the works, as both Constellation Energy and Progress Energy recently announced plans to join the ranks of those utilities already considering expansion of their nuclear generation capabilities. 

On September 15, 2005, Constellation and French-based AREVA, Inc. announced the creation of UniStar Nuclear, a joint enterprise that will provide the business framework to oversee the development, construction, and operation of a "standardized fleet" of new nuclear power plants.  Bechtel Power Corporation will also provide architectural, engineering, and contracting support for the undertaking.  UniStar plans to market an advanced power reactor, called the U.S. Evolutionary Power Reactor ("EPR"), which is a 1600 MW evolutionary power reactor designed by AREVA specifically for the U.S.  The U.S. version of EPR is based on AREVA's advanced nuclear power plant, which is already being used across Europe.  AREVA is currently completing EPR's design certification in the U.S., and the new technology should be licensed and ready to deploy by 2015.  Constellation hopes to use UniStar to cultivate joint ventures to develop the new nuclear generators.  Constellation's president, Michael Wallace, referred to the unique business framework as "a one-stop shop approach to design, build, license, and operate a fleet of nuclear power plants."

Progress Energy has also recently announced that it is studying the possibility of increasing its stable of nuclear generating plants by adding a sixth nuclear power plant in the near future.  The North Carolina-based utility notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ("NRC") that it expects to select a potential site and vendor by the end of 2005.  While Progress has not made the final decision to go ahead with a new nuclear project, if the process goes as planned, it could apply to the NRC for a construction and operating license by 2008, begin construction as soon as 2010, and start commercial operations by approximately 2015.  Progress currently operates five nuclear plants in the Carolinas and Florida. 

Constellation and Progress are not alone among utilities eyeing an expanded nuclear fleet.  Duke Power, Southern Nuclear Operating (a subsidiary of Southern Company), South Carolina Electric & Gas, and Santee Cooper have all also recently announced plans to consider developing new nuclear generation.