MidAmerican drops Idaho nuclear project due to cost

NEW YORK, Jan 29 (Reuters) - MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co’s MidAmerican Nuclear Energy Co said it has decided to end its pursuit of a nuclear power plant in Payette County, Idaho, because it would cost too much.

A spokesman for MidAmerican said Tuesday the company informed local elected officials of its decision on Jan. 25, posted the notice on its Web site and sent letters to Payette County residents.

“Consumers expect reasonably priced energy, and the company’s due diligence process has led to the conclusion that it does not make economic sense to pursue the project at this time,” Bill Fehrman, President of MidAmerican Nuclear Energy Co, said in the letter to Payette County residents.

In December, MidAmerican, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc BRKa.N, said it was investigating the construction of the reactor as a merchant plant selling power at wholesale prices rather than recovering billions from customers of its regulated utilities.

A new nuclear reactor however could cost more than $3 billion depending on the size and model.

“The decision (to end the pursuit) is based on economic considerations and not on issues related to the suitability of the Idaho site,” Fehrman said in his note.

MidAmerican was looking at Idaho in part because it is centrally located between the states the company’s PacifiCorp subsidiary serves - Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Washington and California.

From 2007-2009, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said it expects to receive 21 applications to build 32 new reactors in the United States, including MidAmerican’s Idaho reactor. As of Jan. 24, the NRC has already received four applications to build seven reactors.

MidAmerican Energy Holding, of Des Moines, Iowa, owns and operates more than 20,000 MW of generating capacity, markets energy commodities and transmits and delivers electricity and natural gas to about 6.9 million customers worldwide. (Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Marguerita Choy)