Loan guarantee has nuclear industry glowing

The industry's commercial revival, though, is not as far along as its political comeback. Construction on a nuclear reactor hasn't been started in more than two decades. Investors have been reluctant to back the industry, which has a history of cost overruns.

David Crane, president and CEO of NRG Energy, which operates one nuclear reactor but wants to build more, told a Washington audience on Thursday that low natural gas prices could still short-circuit nuclear’s revival. Gas plants are cheaper to build. Nuclear power could make up the difference in lower operating costs, but only if natural gas prices increase or remain volatile.  

If natural gas falls below $3 per 1000 cubic feet, “then we can all go home,” Crane said.

He doubted new gas reserves, however, would push prices that low. Noting the recent political support the industry has won, Crane said the industry’s future was “very bright.”