Thursday, April 21, 2011

Shale Gas Causes NRG to Stop Texas Nuclear Projects

Low gas prices more than the Fukushima nuclear disaster have pushed NRG to painfully pull the plug on its plans to construct two nuclear units in Texas.  NRG had been in a lead position to secure federal loan guarantees, but the low price of gas made it impossible to finance the immense investment needed to build the nuclear plants.

NRG's decsion means that it will write off $300 million it had invested in moving the projects forward. Toshiba, an NRG partner, indicated that it too will write off $150 million.  Financial results like that certainly won't make financing new nuclear plants easier.

What role did the Fukushima disaster play in NRG's decision?  The disaster did remove Tokyo Electric Power and the Japanese Government as possible investment partners, but the low price of natural gas made recovery of the capital investment plus a return on that investment next to impossible.

Fundamentally fracking, shale gas and low natural gas prices, not Fukushima, stopped the NRG nuclear projects.  Low natural gas prices also played a key role in Constellation Energy's decision to stop moving forward with a new nuclear plant at Calvert Cliffs in Maryland.

The US shale boom has dimmed the US nuclear renaissance.  It should also mean an end to operating old, coal plants with few or no pollution controls on them.

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