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Fracked off via The Economist

Thanks to cheap natural gas, America’s nuclear renaissance is on hold

[...]

The culprit is the price of natural gas, which fell from over $13 per million British thermal units in 2008, when many of the applications to build new nuclear plants were lodged, to just $2 last year. Although it has since recovered to over $4, America’s huge reserves of shale gas should stop it from rising much for years to come. That makes some old nuclear plants costlier to run than gas-fired ones. Factoring in the massive expense of building new reactors—the pair at Vogtle will cost around $15 billion—makes nuclear power even less competitive. David Crane, the boss of NRG Energy, which scrapped plans to build two reactors in Texas in 2011 after sinking $331m into the project, estimates that new gas-fired generation costs $0.04 per kilowatt-hour, against at least $0.10 for nuclear.

It was not supposed to be this way. In 2005 Congress approved subsidies to bolster the nuclear industry and encourage the construction of new plants. It extended a law limiting owner liability in case of accidents and, for the first few new reactors, offered $18 billion in loan guarantees, $2 billion in indemnification against cost overruns and $1 billion in tax breaks. The NRC streamlined its licensing procedures, hoping to avoid the years of delays that inflated costs for earlier nuclear plants. (Southern ended up paying $8.7 billion for the existing reactors at Vogtle, a far cry from the $660m originally projected.)

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