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Building nuclear power is a bridge too far for the world’s private investors

The next generation of nuclear reactors will have to be financed by taxpayers, because private investors are unwilling to bear the risks associated with building new plants.

That was the warning from bankers at a meeting of industry and government officials in Prague this week. The Nuclear Energy Agency event underscored the tough decisions Western economies will soon have to make to keep one of their largest clean energy sources running. While the public has turned to nuclear energy in recent years, rising project costs have made private equity cautious.

Officials estimate that the world will need to spend $5 trillion over the next 25 years to triple nuclear power generation. The problem is that years of delays and billions of dollars in budget overruns on European and American projects are frightening investors, and dozens of reactors already running on borrowed time need to be replaced. No private investor wants to take on construction risk, says Simon Taylor, a financier at the Cambridge Nuclear Energy Center.

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