February 28, 2006
Former US energy chief joins US unit of Areva
By Bernie Woodall
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Former U.S. Secretary of Energy
Spencer Abraham on Tuesday said he became chairman of the U.S.
unit of Areva, the world's largest maker of nuclear reactors,
because he wants to foster a new fleet of nuclear power plants
in the United States.
"The current fleet of nuclear plants provides 20 percent of
our power generation," said Abraham in a telephone interview.
"If we don't build any new plants, at the rate of growth in our
demand, that figure will be 14 percent by 2020."
Abraham has long been an advocate of nuclear power, which
he said makes him a good fit as Paris-based Areva, seeks to
expand its position in the United States.
Areva, owned by the French government, competes for design
and construction of power plants mainly with Westinghouse and
General Electric Co.'s unit GE Energy.
Westinghouse is being acquired by Toshiba Corp. for $5.4
Abraham, 53, was a Republican U.S. senator from Michigan,
before serving as energy secretary in the first Bush
administration from 2001-2005.
He says he will be a "non-executive" chairman and will not
immerse himself in the day-to-day operation of Areva Inc.,
which is the U.S. unit of Areva.
"Secretary Abraham has been one of the true leaders for the
advancement of nuclear power in America, and indeed, around the
world," said Anne Lauvergeon, chairman of Areva. "He is
well-respected and offers our company unique insights and
Abraham declined to say how many nuclear plants he expects
to be built in the United States. Industry analysts have said
that 10 to 15 nuclear units will be built by 2020. And the head
of Areva's international division, Jean-Jacques Gautrot, said
he thinks at least 800 nuclear reactors will be built in the
next 25 to 35 years.
Any new plants will be units at the site of existing ones
in the United States, Abraham said.
"It's likely to be that way for a variety of reasons,"
Abraham said. "The site has usually gone through the challenge
posed by having that facility. The public in those communities
is probably more receptive to additional units."
Abraham, 53, heads The Abraham Group, a Washington-based
consulting firm focusing on energy issues.
Areva Inc. has 40 locations in 20 U.S. states and had 2005
revenues of $1.8 billion.
Areva says it is the only company in the world involved in
the full cycle of nuclear power activity, from mining uranium
to its enrichment, fuel production, reactor design,
construction and maintenance, fuel processing and recycling.