Illinois Legislators Go to Bat For Nuclear Power Metal Industries to Benefit?

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Minor Metals, Non-ferrous Metals

Just when I was the one to say that nuclear is dead under the current administration (or at least while Senator Harry Reid is in charge), I caught this headline from Crain’s Chicago this week, Springfield Takes Aim at Nuke Ban. The article goes on to report that our lawmakers (I say our since we reside in Illinois) wish to remove the ban on new nuclear power plants in Illinois. It takes a very bad economy in Illinois to get our legislators to take action on this subject (the ban has been in place since 1987).

My colleague Stuart argued back in December that nuclear power, on the rise both here and in the developing world would have a significant impact on metals demand. But I pooh-pooh’d that notion with this follow-up piece (at least from an American perspective) on energy industry winners and losers from the stimulus package citing nuclear as a big loser.

So I decided to contact someone in the industry and selected an old friend, Mark Pruitt, who is now Director of the Illinois Power Agency, a state agency formed to help ease energy costs for Illinois taxpayers, what he thought of the no new nuclear ban and its impact on the nuclear power industry in general. Here is what he said:

“Lifting the moratorium does not necessarily guarantee that new nuclear plants will be developed in Illinois.  Because of expense, past nuclear installations were only built because their costs could be placed into the utility rate base (i.e. guaranteed by ratepayers).  Since that time, Illinois utilities have divested themselves of power generating assets –
making electricity isn’t Com Ed’s or Ameren’s business anymore.  This being the case – who will build these new plants if cost coverage is not guaranteed by ratepayers?”

Interesting point. The Crain’s article cited a national repository for radioactive waste, as being an obstacle to new nuclear construction. But Mark felt the state level legal impediments could be overcome. The waste issue at the federal level, however, may stand in the way.

All of this brings us back to the Illinois power companies. Mark said to MetalMiner, I’m not aware of Com Ed, Ameren, or any of the municipals expressing an interest in developing a nuclear plant.  The bills in the state legislature may be a sign of some movement on the nuclear front but until the state figures out how to pay for it, nuclear, at least in Illinois, is not likely to go anywhere anytime soon.

–Lisa Reisman

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