May 7, 2010 / 10:52 PM / 9 years ago

Dominion switches to Mitsubishi nuclear design

* Dominion drops GE nuclear design in favor of Mitsubishi

* Decision to build Virginia reactor seen later this year

HOUSTON, May 7 (Reuters) - Dominion Resources Inc’s (D.N) has selected Mitsubishi Heavy Industry’s (6502.T) Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor (APWR) technology for its proposed new nuclear power plant in Virginia, the company said on Friday.

Dominion launched a competitive bidding process last fall to find an engineering and construction partner after failing to negotiate a contract with General Electric Co (GE.N)/Hitachi Ltd (6501.T) to build the company’s advanced nuclear design, the 1,550 MW Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR).

Changing its preferred nuclear design for a proposed third reactor at Dominion’s North Anna station will require the company to amend its nuclear license application, delaying the project beyond the company’s previous target date of 2016-2017.

“Based on our final analysis of the proposals received in the competitive process, Mitsubishi provided the most attractive value for our customers,” said Thomas Farrell, Dominion chief executive.

Nuclear power generates about 20 percent or U.S. electricity and proponents say nuclear power is attractive because it emits none of the heat-trapping carbon dioxide released by plants that burn coal or natural gas.

A decision on a new vendor had been expected last year, but the company extended the process several months.

“Dominion Virginia Power is the first utility in the United States to conduct a competitive bidding process for new reactor technology in the past decade,” Farrell said in a statement.

Dominion expects to decide later this year whether to build a third reactor at North Anna which is located in Louisa County, about 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Richmond.

Although the Mitsubishi’s 1,700-megawatt APWR design has not yet been certified by U.S. nuclear regulators, Farrell said the technology has been “thoroughly tested.”

In March, Dominion was the first utility to obtain a final environmental impact statement from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the North Anna site.

Dominion hopes to obtain a federal loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy to reduce costs for its Virginia customers. The company has not disclosed the cost for the plant, but other utilities have said new reactors will cost between $6 billion and $10 billion.

In February, DOE awarded the first conditional loan of $8.3 billion to Southern Co (SO.N) for a two-unit nuclear expansion project in Georgia and the agency has asked Congress to triple its current nuclear loan guarantee budget to $54 billion as a way to jump-start nuclear development.

Reporting by Eileen O'Grady; Editing by David Gregorio

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