The PR debate over the prospects of nuclear power in this country has finally come down to dollars and cents, which is a good thing.
Nuke energy died in this country following Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania and Chernobyl in Ukraine. Emotions ran high. Anti-nuclear arguments initially focused on a potential China Syndrome (e.g., meltdown) and then evolved to terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11. That has now changed.
New Orleans-based Entergy has reframed the debate. That energy company has done more than anybody else to revive nuclear power here, announcing plans Nov. 5 to set up the nation’s first pure nuclear play.
Entergy is seeking payback for shareholders. The company has been an aggressive player on the nuclear front, buying up cast-off facilities for little more than a song.
Wall Street is cheering Entergy, bidding up its shares with news of the creation of a new nuke company.
Environmentalists are caught in the cross-hairs. Some see nuclear power as an ally in the effort to reduce global warming and cut the need for the burning of “dirty” coal. The majority, however, remain in denial about nuclear energy, arguing that the waste issue tops all others. In short, nuclear waste is forever.
Entergy’s plan injects a big financial component into nuclear’s future. Are investors willing to give nuclear power another go? That appears more and more likely as oil prices are ready to top the $100 a barrel price.
Entergy believes its new nuke company will have a market value in the $20B range. Its key assets are Indian Point (Buchanan, N.Y.), Pilgrim in Plymouth, Mass., Vermont Yankee (Vernon), FitzPatrick (Oswego, N.Y.) and Palisades (Covert, Mich). The five plants have earnings of $800M per-year. That is expected to rise to $1.4B as sales terms are negotiated.
Entergy is far from being a PR wall flower when it comes to confronting the anti-nuke crowd. With the help of Burson-Marsteller, Entergy earned that reputation for its defense of Indian Point, the suburban New York City plant has been called the No. 1 target for terrorists.
Environmentalists have found a worthy opponent in Entergy.