Cheap shale drives EDF out of US nuclear energy sector

Written by Reuters | Paris | Updated: Jul 31 2013, 20:26pm hrs
French utility EDF, the worlds biggest operator of nuclear plants, is pulling out of nuclear energy in the US, bowing to the realities of a market that has been transformed by cheap shale gas.

Several nuclear reactors in the US have been closed or are being shuttered as utilities baulk at the big investments needed to extend their lifetimes now that nuclear power has been so decisively undercut by electricity generated from shale gas.

The spectacular fall of the price of gas in the US, which was unimaginable a few years ago, has made this form of energy ultra competitive vis a vis all other forms of energy, EDF chief executive Henri Proglio said. It has completely reshaped the landscape of electric power generation in the US in favour of gas.

EDF agreed with its partner Exelon on a future exit from their joint venture CENG, which operates five nuclear plants in the US with a total capacity of 3.9 gigawatts.

The French utility said it had agreed a put option that allows EDF to sell CENG to Exelon at the fair value of its stake between January 2016 and June 2022. EDF will also receive an exceptional dividend from CENG of $400 million, it said.

The circumstances for the development of nuclear in the US are not favorable at the moment, Proglio said. We are a major player in nuclear, but we are not obsessed by nuclear. Our development in the US will focus on renewable energy; that will be our vector of growth in the US.