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NRG CEO: Japan Disaster May Spur U.S. Gas, Coal Power

Power generation developers may be taking new looks at added natural gas- and coal-fired plants as an outgrowth of the reaction to the continuing disaster unfolding at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear generating plant, according to the CEO of NRG Energy Inc.

David Crane announced late Tuesday that his company was dropping out of plans with two Japanese partners to build two new nuclear units next to NRG's existing South Texas Project (STP) nuclear complex.

In response to a question on a conference call announcing that NRG will take a first quarter $481 million charge to drop its part of the plans for two new STP reactors, Crane said since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan and the Fukushima plant NRG has aggressively been analyzing how the tragedy was likely to alter the energy landscape in the United States.

"One of the things that we have been aggressively evaluating is the implications from Fukushima across the generation mix and all of our core markets," Crane said. "We do see some opportunities outside the nuclear world."

Is NRG talking to any of the potential buyers of the proposed new nuclear supplies about supplies from other power sources?

"We are not at this point, but we certainly would be willing to do that," Crane said. "As an independent generator, NRG's approach has always been that the best strategy is to offer multiple fuel options. Natural gas obviously is the paradigm that most people are looking at, but I have to say that I think coal generation is going to be back on the table in various parts of the country as a result of what's happening to nuclear power."

Tuesday's action followed last month's announcement by NRG that it was putting on hold most permitting and development work to allow time for the ongoing attempt by U.S. federal regulators to sort through the lessons emerging from what Crane called Japan's "national calamity of epic proportions." Nuclear Innovation North America LLC, a joint development by NRG Energy and Japan's Toshiba Corp., was working to secure federal loan guarantees that are critical to the proposed expansion of the South Texas Project (see Daily GPI, March 22).

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