Nuclear's Back in the USA and Toshiba Wants In

toshibanuclear.jpgIt was questionable whether the much-blogged-about Toshiba micro nuclear reactor was legit or not, but Toshiba does sell nuclear tech and it’s spending a lot of money trying to break into the U.S. market. The latest comes this afternoon: power company NRG Energy put out a release saying it’s created a company called Nuclear Innovation North America to develop and invest in nuclear projects — and Toshiba is investing a whopping $300 million into the venture.

While nuclear has the ability to offer massive amounts of clean power, safety concerns and a public backlash have meant a nuclear plant hasn’t been built in the U.S. in decades. But everyone from the federal government to power companies to the presidential candidates are suddenly advocating nuclear as a crucial piece of the U.S.’s renewable energy future. And Nuclear Innovation North America is already set to work on a planned extension of a nuclear plant in Texas called the South Texas Project. That extension could be the first nuclear project built in the U.S. in thirty years.

Most of us know Japanese conglomerate Toshiba for its laptops and consumer electronics. But Toshiba also makes advanced boiling water reactors , which is a next-gen nuclear technology that is supposedly safer, more efficient and can be built at a lower cost than older nuclear tech.

Toshiba has already built two advanced boiling water reactors in Japan. And Nuclear Innovation North America isn’t Toshiba’s first foray into getting into the U.S. nuclear market, either; Toshiba bought Pennsylvania-based nuclear tech provider Westinghouse Electric in 2006 for around $4.16 billion.

For this new venture Toshiba will act as the prime contractor for all of the company’s nuclear projects and will own 12 percent of the firm. Of the $300 million Toshiba investment, a good half of that will go toward the additional units for the South Texas Project. The other half will go toward new projects and new locations in the U.S. to implement the next-gen reactors.

NRG notes that Toshiba’s experience in developing the reactors in Japan on a specific budget…

. . . will be key to nuclear development as the cost and commercial terms associated with the construction of new nuclear units has emerged over the past few months as perhaps the biggest remaining obstacle to the “nuclear renaissance” in the United States.

Another reason nuclear has been such a hot buzz word in the presidential candidate debates is its ability to deliver a significant amount of “green jobs.” NRG says its nuclear projects will equal a “$15 billion of direct investment in the U.S. economy through jobs and equipment.” Building the extension of the Texas project alone is supposed to employ 4,000 to 6,000 construction workers over five years and around 1,000 permanent operating staff positions once the reactor starts up.

NRG is holding a conference call waaay early tomorrow morning to talk about the plan. OK, OK, we’ll get up to listen to it and bring you some more details.genuclear.jpg