It is time for US nuclear power plant projects with a first-wave build strategy to consider moving to the second wave
- By Edward Kee -
Most new nuclear power plant projects in the US seem to be pursuing a first-wave build strategy. This strategy involves a significant early commitment of resources, while deferring the investment decision and retaining the option to defer or cancel the actual power plant investment as long as possible.
Only a handful of these projects are expected to actually start construction in the first wave. The other projects could lower costs and risks by moving to a second-wave strategy now.
As of May 2009, 17 Combined Construction and Operating License (COL) applications for 26 new nuclear units had been docketed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Many of these projects are aiming to start construction in the first wave (i.e., as soon as a COL is approved by the NRC, now expected to be in 2012).
A first-wave nuclear project involves a fairly large commitment of resources, even though project sponsors may not yet have committed to invest in the nuclear power plant. A year ago, most of the first-wave projects had a good chance of starting construction as soon as a COL was approved. Today, only a few are expected to actually start construction in the first wave. Developing and implementing a second-wave strategy now, rather than waiting until COL approval to make that decision, may be a way to lower costs and risks for some projects.
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