Warren Buffett, son of Bircher-Nazi Howard Buffett, is one reason GW Bush has been talking up "nucular" energy of late. Consensus reality is being shaped to rule out "inefficient" alternatives that might compete with the investment of America's most trusted Robber Baron in the atom.
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRKa.N: Quote, Profile, Research) (BRKb.N: Quote, Profile, Research) owns Des Moines, Iowa-based MidAmerican. The new unit, Mid-American Nuclear Energy Co, notified the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission this week that it is studying options to build a new reactor in Payette County, Idaho, said Bill Fehrman, president.
While the nuclear unit, formed just two months ago, is "very early in the due diligence phase," Fehrman said it will be ready to decide whether to move forward to seek a combined operating license (COL) for a new reactor by the middle of 2008, in time to take advantage of financial incentives offered in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
Critical factors will include plant cost, the need for additional transmission and water availability, Ferhman said. The company has not settled on a preferred technology for the new reactor.
Because no reactors have been built in the U.S. in nearly 30 years, new projects face a variety of challenges, including materials, technology, labor, project management and regulatory issues, according to industry sources.
MidAmerican's plan is to build the reactor as a merchant plant selling power at wholesale prices rather than recovering billions from customers of its regulated utilities.
Fehrman said additional electric supplies are needed throughout the rapidly growing west.
The state also has a "rich nuclear history," he said, citing the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls.
About 45 percent of MidAmerican's PacifiCorp's 1.7 million electric customers are in Utah. Oregon customers comprise about 33 percent of the utility's customers with the remainder in Wyoming, Washington, Idaho and California.
Earlier this year, state regulators in Oregon rejected a plan by PacifiCorp utility to build two coal-fired power plants there.
The NRC has received three license applications this year and expects expects applications for more than 30 new reactors in the coming years. (Reporting by Eileen O'Grady; Editing by Christian Wiessner)
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