Energy Industry to Suffer in Near Future, NEI’s Fertel Says

U.S. energy industries that receive government support including ethanol, wind and nuclear will probably suffer in the near future from the nation’s worsening fiscal position, the head of a nuclear-energy industry group said.

“I think the suffering will go across the board,” due to the looming debt situation and the possibility of higher taxes, Marvin Fertel, chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute, said today at a conference in Washington. He cited uncertainty over the continuation of a production tax credit for wind energy and congressional opposition to subsidies for ethanol as two examples of potential obstacles.

U.S. nuclear-plant developers have had to grapple with competition from natural gas as they seek financing for new facilities, which are costly to build. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission earlier this year approved the first construction licenses for new units in 30 years, awarding them to projects being developed by Southern Co. of Atlanta and Scana Corp. of Cayce, South Carolina.

Southern’s project has not received the Energy Department’s final approval for an $8.3 billion loan guarantee, after it was conditionally approved in February 2010. Fertel said he was “perplexed” by the delay.

Fertel also said he doesn’t expect new reactor licenses to be significantly affected by the NRC’s announcement in August that, in response to a court order, it is freezing final decisions for up to two years while it reconsiders waste-storage risks. The agency can still conduct its analysis of licenses in the interim, he said.

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