America’s Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) has slammed the Energy Information Agency’s (EIA) assessment of the nuclear contribution to the nation’s energy mix over the coming 20 years.

Following the EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2005 report which forecasts a falling contribution from nukes with no new reactors being built before 2025, the NEI has said the EIA’s figures are “completely wrong.” The EIA estimates capital costs at more than $1,900/kW installed for the first new plants, but industry figures are considerably less at around $1,400/kW installed, dropping to $1,100 – $1,200 after an initial wave of construction.

The divergence arises notably in estimates for the lead time for reactor development and in the level of subsidies available for early reactor developments. Vendors currently estimate three or four years lead time for reactors, while EIA estimates six years or more, raising projected financing costs for the projects, by including the licensing process. Similarly, reactor developers tend to assume government support for first time engineering costs of say 50% while the EIA assumptions are less favourable.