- The Guardian,
- Thursday April 10 2008
Westinghouse Electric, the nuclear design and build firm sold by the British government two years ago, has won its first contracts in America for 30 years.
The move underlines the worldwide renaissance of atomic power generation as a source of low-carbon energy. The Pittsburgh-based group, which has sought approval for its reactor design to be accepted in Britain, has won a deal from Georgia Power to build two AP1000 nuclear reactors at the Alvin W. Vogtle site near Waynesboro, Georgia, for an estimated $13bn (£7bn).
Westinghouse, which won the contract with its partner, the Shaw Group, said the project moves the country's nuclear revival "beyond the planning stage" and into a new era.
Steve Tritch, president of Westinghouse said: "Nuclear power is now rightfully recognised as a clean, safe and economically competitive source of baseload generation that helps ensure US energy independence."
Westinghouse was bought by BNFL in 1999 but the British government pushed for its sale saying it could leave the public purse facing substantial financial liabilities as it ramped up its business in the light of potential new building opportunities in the US and China. Ministers also expressed concerns that Westinghouse could be compromised if the government had to decide on a design for a new generation of British stations so the company was sold to Japan's Toshiba, for £2.8bn.
Westinghouse has submitted its AP1000 design in the UK but will face strong competition from Areva of France.
Last month, Georgia Power's parent group, Southern Nuclear, filed an application with the nuclear regulatory commission in America for a combined construction and operating license for Westinghouse's AP1000 plant design.
Each reactor can generate about 1,100 megawatts meaning two of this size could generate enough power for 1 million homes. Two existing reactors at Vogtle are owned by Southern's largest utility and three public power agencies: Oglethorpe Power Corp, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Dalton Utilities. Georgia Power, along with co-owners of the Vogtle nuclear power plant near Augusta, will submit the contract terms to the Georgia public service commission in May to be considered along with other proposals to meet the utility's need for additional generation in 2016-2017.
The NRC which has received nine applications to build new reactors expects to receive as many as 22 other applications for 33 new reactors by 2010.