First loan guarantee applications for new US facilities

08 August 2008

Applications have been submitted to the US Department of Energy (DoE) for federal loan guarantees for the first new nuclear power plant and the first new fuel cycle facility in the USA.

Calvert Cliffs (NRC) 
The existing Calvert Cliffs plant (Image: NRC)
Constellation Energy's Calvert Cliffs 3 nuclear plant and USEC's American Centrifuge Plant are the first announced applications to the DoE for loan guarantees under the 2005 Energy Policy Act.

The actual application for the new Calvert Cliffs plant was filed by Calvert Cliffs-3 Nuclear Project LLC, which is a subsidiary of UniStar Nuclear Energy (UNE), Constellations' 50-50 joint venture with Electricité de France (EdF). UniStar is based on a business framework developed jointly by France's Areva and Constellation Energy exploring how to build at least four of Areva's advanced US EPR nuclear units in the USA. In mid-2007, UNE was launched to proceed with plans to build, own and operate a fleet of US EPR units in the USA and Canada.

Maureen Brown, director of generation communications for Constellation Energy, told WNN that they had filed part one of their loan guarantee application with the DoE. The second part is due to be submitted by19 December. Constellation indicated to DoE that they wanted conditional approval as soon as possible, since it was critical to their decision to proceed. Other factors would be the actual cost of the plant in the light of escalating materials costs, bipartisan political support, and the "price implications of carbon regulation" in the USA.

Constellation CEO Mayo Shattuck said that he expected the overnight capital cost of the new plant to be in the mid to upper end of the $4500 to $6000 per kilowatt range, hence about $9 billion. This would include owner's costs but not finance.

UniStar has lodged an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a combined construction and operation licence (COL) for the new plant, the final part of it on 17 March. Unistar Nuclear Operating Services LLC, a subsidiary of UNE, will be the licensee. Calvert Cliffs will be the reference COL for the US-EPR.

Constellation expects to make a decision about starting site works at Calvert Cliffs in 2009. DoE has said that any preliminary approvals issued in 2009 will be conditional upon the applicant receiving a COL from the NRC, and these are not expected before 2010-12.

The main forgings for the 1600 MWe reactor have been ordered on behalf of UniStar from Japan Steel Works (JSW), but neither this nor the COL and loan guarantee applications commit either UniStar or Constellation to actually build the plant.

Enrichment plant 

USEC has also submitted the first part of its loan guarantee application for its much publicised American Centrifuge Plant. This was "for financing needed to complete the plant," according to John Welch, president and CEO of USEC.

USEC expects its AC100 Lead Cascade of large centrifuge machines at Piketon, Ohio, to be operational in the first quarter of 2009. This AC100 Lead Cascade may later "be integrated into a commercial cascade", but the machine design will be superseded in 2009 by the "value-engineered AC100 machine" which will be deployed in the commercial plant. A prototype lead cascade has been operating for nearly a year already.

The full plant is expected to commence commercial operation by the end of the first quarter of 2010, reaching 1 million SWU capacity a year later and achieving full 3.8 million SWU annual capacity at the end of 2012.

The USEC plant is now expected to cost around $3.5 billion excluding finance, and it will utilise existing infrastructure inherited from the DoE.