Would-be reactor builders busy in USA

13 December 2007

Plans for potential new nuclear power sites in Idaho and South Carolina are moving forward with the companies involved - nuclear newcomer Alternate Energy Holdings and the long-established Duke Energy - making announcements on pre-construction activities.


Alternate Energy Holdings Inc (AEHI), a holding company for the Idaho Energy Complex, announced on 5 December that it had received a $150 million commitment letter from Silverleaf Capital Partners of Salt Lake, Utah, in reference to Idaho Energy Complex's unit 1 reactor. AEHI plans to allocate the funds for the purchase of the nuclear plant site, large forgings, and the necessary environmental and engineering work to obtain regulatory approval for plant construction and operation.

According to AEHI CEO Don Gillispie, now that the initial funding is in place to launch the project the company is looking for large equity investors to participate in what he described as "the west's only large, base-load power plant." AEHI announced in June 2007 that it had secured a letter of intent from Cobblestone Financial Group to finance 100% of the project.


The Idaho Energy Complex project is a proposed nuclear/biofuels generation complex to be built near Bruneau, Idaho. The energy produced by the plant would, the company says, be sufficient to power the entire state of Idaho, and excess heat from the plant would be used to produce biofuels. In July, AEHI announced that it had selected the USEPR reactor design for the plant and had entered an agreement with Unistar Nuclear, a joint project of Constellation Energy and Areva, to build the reactor.


AEHI, a new kid on the nuclear power block, describes its mission as "to help address the national energy shortfall and provide exceptional value for stakeholders through the purchase and optimization of underperforming, environmentally-friendly power sources in deregulated areas, as well as through the construction of new generation." Central to that is the Idaho Energy Complex plant. Although Idaho does not yet have any nuclear power stations, a second company, MidAmerican Nuclear Energy Company, recently expressed interest in building a nuclear power plant in the state.


Duke files in Carolinas


Duke Energy subsidiary Duke Energy Carolinas has filed with the state regulators of both North and South Carolina for approval of its decision to incur "nuclear generation pre-construction costs" for the proposed William States Lee III power plant in Cherokee County, South Carolina.


Duke Energy Carolinas says it will have incurred a total of $230 million in pre-construction costs by the end of 2009 - approximately $70 million to the end of 2007, and up to an additional $160 million for the period from 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2009. According to the filings, although current indications are that the Lee plant will be needed to help Duke meet expected additional demand by 2027, no final construction decision has yet been made. "Duke Energy Carolinas will retain substantial flexibility to adjust the development and construction plans in light of additional information to be gained in future years; and the Commission will retain the ability to review and evaluate future decisions to ensure that the final result is prudent and in customers' long-term best interests," the company noted.


Press speculation suggests that Duke's submission of a combined construction and operating licence (COL) application for the plant, to comprise two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, is expected within days. According to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the application is expected in 2008.


Further information


Alternative Energy Holdings (AEHI)
Duke Energy
Idaho Energy Complex
Silverleaf Partners


North Carolina Utilities Commission
Public Service Commission of South Carolina


WNA's US Nuclear Power Industry information paper


WNN: Second Idaho plant proposal
WNN: AEHI secures funding for Idaho plant
WNN: Duke to go it alone on Lee plant