- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2006

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — GE Energy, which moved its nuclear business from California to Wilmington three years ago, has broken ground here for a plant that will focus on developing a new line of nuclear reactors for the international market.

The high price of oil is one trigger behind the rush to tap the fast-growing market overseas, especially in China and India, General Electric officials said.

Nuclear energy has a real opportunity to help the “developing world get on with its business,” David Calhoun, GE infrastructure president and CEO, said during Tuesday’s groundbreaking.

Along with GE, Areva Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of the French-owned nuclear company, and Westinghouse Electric Co. are also looking abroad. GE Energy is the nuclear engineering and consulting business of General Electric Corp.

The nuclear powerhouses are also counting on billions of dollars in federal subsidies, global warming concerns and rising energy costs to bolster the construction of nuclear plants in the United States.

Two North Carolina-based utilities also are moving forward with nuclear projects to meet rising energy demand in their service areas.

Combined, Progress Energy and Duke Power plan to license a total of six new reactors in the Carolinas and Florida.

GE’s 2003 investment in Wilmington includes the promise of 400 jobs in return for more than $11 million in state and local incentives at its 1,650-acre Castle Hayne nuclear facility, which makes fuel rods and parts for nuclear reactors.

So far, it has hired 250 engineers, project managers and support staff toward that goal and still plans to hire the remaining 150 workers.

The latest project, a 40,000-square-foot complex that’s expected to open this November, could bring hundreds more jobs than required by the incentive program, said Andrew White, GE’s chief executive officer of the nuclear energy business.

“If this nuclear reactor business takes off in the U.S., we could be talking about 500 to 1,000 new jobs here,” Mr. White said.

Neither Progress Energy nor Duke have selected GE’s advanced reactor design. They both have picked Westinghouse’s competing model that has already been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

While the GE model isn’t expected to gain regulatory approval in the United States for another year or two, other utilities plan to license the GE model at three sites.

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