NEW YORK — General Electric Co. and Hitachi Ltd. on Monday launched a joint nuclear business to capitalize on rising demand for electricity and increasing concerns about carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.
John Krenicki, president and chief executive of GE Energy, said that nuclear plants produced virtually no carbon gases and that reactors could take the place of aging power plants that rely on fossil fuels.
"We believe nuclear is going to step in, and we're getting ready to execute that plan," he said.
Customers seeking to avoid relying on oil and coal are helping rebuild a market for nuclear energy that faltered beginning in the 1970s as safety worries mounted. Nuclear energy could become more attractive if Congress and state legislatures eventually imposed a carbon tax to discourage carbon-producing industries, Krenicki said.
The GE-Hitachi alliance plans to spend $350 million to $400 million for nuclear plant designs and certification. The designs, which have been in the works for about 11 years, are expected to be completed by 2010, said Andy White, chief executive of GE Energy Nuclear.
"We are coming together at the right time, at the right place and in the right circumstances," said Masaharu Hanyu, president of Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy.
The two companies have worked together since the 1980s to develop reactors in Asia. GE brings to the partnership its expertise in designing boiling water reactor plants, and Hitachi's strengths are in manufacturing reactor components and construction methods, White said.