Firm Ready to Bet on Nuclear Power

Nuclear power may be coming back into vogue in the United States, and companies are looking to jump in.

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Nuclear power may be coming back into vogue in the United States, and companies are looking to jump in.

Framatome ANP will announce today that it has formed a new group to design the newest generation of North American nuclear plants. The company, a joint subsidiary of Siemens and AREVA, is based in Maryland and does much of its engineering work in the University City area.

"AREVA has been preparing for a revival of nuclear generation in North America for some time, and we now have the focus, technology and resources in place to play a leading role in nuclear power's bright future," said Ray Ganthner, the nuclear plant team's manager.

It's a high-stakes business. Framatome ANP has a piece of a 3 billion euro ($3.9 billion) construction project under way in Finland to build a nuclear plant, harbor, transmission lines and government-mandated bomb shelters by a fjord.

Framatome ANP is an unfamiliar name in Charlotte, but its north Charlotte office employs more than 500 people. Many came over in its 2002 purchase of Duke Energy Corp.'s nuclear plant engineering division.

The Charlotte office will handle much of the design work of the company's model for nuclear plant construction. They are modifying the design for the plant in Finland to comply with U.S. standards.

In the United States, the stigma of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island is fading, nuclear proponents say. And the uranium-powered energy doesn't belch emissions like coal-fired plants do, they argue.

But environmentalists still point to greenhouse gases produced by the mining of uranium, as well as other safety concerns.

The last U.S. nuclear plant to come online was in Tennessee in 1996, but utilities see the need to add big new power plants within the next decade to serve growing populations.

Three projects in the United States are in the very early stages of applying for licenses to build new nuclear reactors in Virginia, Louisiana and Illinois.

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