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Mississippi energy executive played key role in forming NuStart

Dan Keuter played a key role in establishing NuStart, a consortium of 11 energy industry leaders, including nine utility companies and two nuclear reactor vendors, working with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to obtain approval for two combined construction and operating licenses (COL) by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) by 2010.

“We were looking at how to move forward with building a new nuclear power plant in the U.S., and the conclusion was that no one company wanted to do a first-of-its-kind plant alone,” said Keuter, vice president of nuclear business development of Jackson-based Entergy Nuclear, the nation’s second-largest operator of nuclear power plants. “At that time, a new task force with the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) had been working on this. So we had a kickoff meeting with seven utilities that would be most interested in going forward. It was called the Atlanta 7 meeting, because it took place in the Crown Room of the Atlanta airport.”

The group of interested parties included Constellation Generation Group, Dominion Resources, Exelon Nuclear, Entergy Nuclear, Florida Power & Light (FP&L), Progress Entergy and Southern Company. Vendor Westinghouse Electric Company was present; General Electric Energy was not.

“I had worked with the NEI and at this meeting, we outlined our basic strategies: to pick one or two technologies and to seek co-funding from the DOE on two designs,” said Keuter. “We discussed narrowing it to one design, but we wanted competition, and not a monopoly for one vendor. Everybody took the concept back to their companies … but somehow it didn’t gel.”

At a breakfast meeting in May 2003 at the Nuclear Energy Assembly conference in San Diego, Calif., Keuter pitched the idea to the companies’ chief nuclear officers. Don Hintz, former president and current board member of Entergy Corporation, and Oliver Kingsley, CEO of Exelon Generation, the nation’s largest nuclear operator with 17 reactors, rallied industry support to move forward.

That fall, five members — Constellation, EDF International North America, Entergy, Exelon, and Southern Company — established NuStart, which was formally announced in March 2004, with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) as a quasi-member. Duke Energy, FP&L and Progress Energy were added as utility members; GE and Westinghouse were added as vendors. Each utility member was expected to contribute to the consortium approximately $1 million a year in cash, in-kind and administrative services through 2010. The DOE approved co-funding for the consortium last fall.

“The two reactor vendors are putting in the majority of the money because they’ll get the intellectual properties of the COL,” said Keuter. “Westinghouse should have their design certification approved by the NRC this year and GE should have theirs by ‘07.”

NuStart will select two sites this fall, and Grand Gulf may be one of them.

“Then bids will go out to vendors at the beginning of 2007 and will be announced by the end of that year,” said Keuter. “We’ll submit the COL by the beginning of 2008, and hopefully gain NRC approval by the beginning of 2010 and start construction. With that kind of schedule, you could expect commercial operation of a new plant to begin in 2014.”

Keuter pointed out that NuStart would never build a plant, but instead would sell or transfer the licenses to a smaller group probably consisting of consortium members. “We will have proven that you can negotiate the process at NRC and in fact get a COL in a timely manner,” he said. “What the companies do then will depend on economic factors.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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