Tickers in this Article: SCG, SO, CVX, BP, MS, GOOG, EIX, PCG
Several utilities are attempting the herculean task of building new nuclear generation facilities in the U.S., some with the assistance of loan guarantees provided by the Federal government. If successful, they would be the first nuclear power plants built in the United States since the 1970s. IN PICTURES: How To Make Your First $1 Million

The loan guarantees are authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which authorizes loan guarantees for projects "that avoid, reduce or sequester air pollutants or anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases."

Funded Reactors
In February 2010, the Obama Administration awarded $8.33 billion in loan guarantees to Southern Company (NYSE:SO) to build two new nuclear reactors in Burke, Georgia. The reactors will be placed next to existing reactors already in operation at the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant owned by Southern Company.

Another company with plans to build nuclear generation facilities is SCANA Corp (NYSE:SCG), which is an electric utility operating mostly in South Carolina. The company is building two 1,117-megawatt reactors next to an existing site already owned by the company. Scana Corp will own 55% of the project, with a state-owned utility owning the balance.

The two reactors will cost an estimated $10.6 billion and, if everything goes as scheduled, will be complete by 2019.

Solar Loans
Nuclear power is not the only beneficiary of these loan guarantees, as they have been awarded to manufacturers of wind turbines and solar panels. The Department of Energy awarded $1.37 billion in loan guarantees to BrightSource Energy to build 400 megawatts of solar power. The three separate plants, when completed in 2013, will sell power to Pacific Gas & Electric (NYSE:PCG) and Southern California Edison Company, a unit of Edison International (NYSE:EIX).

BrightSource Energy is a private company backed by some heavy investors, including Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), Google (Nasdaq:GOOG), BP (NYSE:BP) and Chevron Corp (NYSE:CVX).

Issues Arising
The push towards building new nuclear generating capacity in the United States was prompted by two factors. The price of commodities like oil, coal and natural gas spiked higher than historical ranges, and a commitment to reducing the carbon emissions generated when fossil fuels are burned.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which must issue a license to construct and operate a new reactor, reports that the commission has received 28 applications. Interestingly, most of these proposed plants are located in the south and southwestern United States.

While all this activity is clearly positive, it may not even move the needle on nuclear power as a source of generation. The Department of Energy (DOE), in its 2010 outlook, estimates that the percentage of electricity generated by nuclear will actually decline from 20% in 2008 to 17% by 2035 in one of its scenarios.

The Bottom Line
Nuclear power is slowly making it back onto the scene, with a surge of utilities filing for licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build reactors. It will take years, however, for any of these to get on line. (For related reading, take a look at Can Business Evolve In A Green World?)

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