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11/08/2013

Luminant tells regulators it's suspending Comanche Peak expansion

Dallas-based Luminant Generation has told federal regulators it will suspend its quest for a license to expand its Comanche Peak nuclear plant in Glen Rose, southwest of Fort Worth. Luminant cited reactor partner Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' decision to focus its efforts on restoring nuclear power in Japan, where reactors were idled following the 2011 Fukushima accident. Both companies also said economic conditions, including the low price of wholesale power in Texas, played a role. Mitsubishi Nuclear Energy Systems had been working to gain U.S. certification of the reactor design that was going to be used at an expanded Comanche Peak. The plant currently has two reactors, and Luminant in 2008 announced plans to add two more.

In a letter to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Luminant said that "while Luminant preferred for MHI to continue" to pursue certification of its reactor, "that alternative does not appear viable given MHI's other priorities." The letter, dated Thursday, goes on to say that Luminant "concluded that it does not make sense to continue to expend Luminant or NRC resources" on the work toward a new license. Work on the Comanche Peak expansion had already been delayed by the financial woes of Energy Future Holdings, Luminant's corporate parent, and Texas' power prices that have been driven down by cheap natural gas.

Two Texas opponents of the Comanche Peak expansion on Friday said the decision "shows that the so-called nuclear renaissance has fizzled." Karen Hadden, executive director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED)  Coalition, said the delay clears the way for safer, cleaner and more affordable renewable energy in Texas." Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, said "it was long believed EFH was keeping these licenses alive because they would be valuable assets in bankruptcy.  This stunning decision shows how little bankers on Wall Street value nuclear power." 

-- Jim Fuquay

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