The iconic cooling towers are not actually the reactors, themselves. Cameco

In August, Premier Moe mentioned the possibility of building 1,000 megawatt reactors. Westinghouse builds those

A Saskatchewan-based company now owns just under half of a nuclear powerhouse.  Would buying Westinghouse now mean “buying local?”

 

SASKATOON – A Saskatchewan company, Cameco, now owns just under half of one of the world’s top nuclear reactor building companies, Westinghouse.

Cameco announced on Nov. 7 that the acquisition of Westinghouse Electric Company (Westinghouse) in a strategic partnership with Brookfield Asset Management alongside its publicly listed affiliate Brookfield Renewable Partners (Brookfield) and institutional partners closed that day.

For the expenditure of US$2.1 billion, Cameco now owns a 49 per cent interest. Brookfield owns the remaining 51 per cent in Westinghouse, one of the world’s largest nuclear services businesses.

It comes at a time when Saskatchewan and SaskPower are heading down the path of nuclear power development in a big way. When Pipeline Online asked Premier Scott Moe in August about expanded development of nuclear power, he mentioned that 1,000 megawatt reactors might be considered. Up until that point, SaskPower has been only talking about 300 megawatt small modular reactors for the previous year. As seen later in this story, Cameco offers the 1,000 megawatt AP1000 reactor, and will soon offer a 300 megawatt small modular reactor, based on the design of the AP1000.

“This is a historic day for Cameco as we join Brookfield to complete our purchase of Westinghouse,” said Tim Gitzel, president and CEO of Cameco, in a release. “Since first announcing this deal a year ago, we believe the business prospects for Westinghouse have significantly improved. The sustained and positive momentum for nuclear energy has been undeniable as countries and companies around the world strive to meet their net-zero commitments and growing energy needs through clean and secure supply.

“Cameco’s 35 years of experience in uranium mining and nuclear fuel production combined with Brookfield’s expertise in clean energy is expected to provide a solid foundation for Westinghouse’s continued success in the provision of nuclear plant technologies, products and services, and to create a powerful platform for strategic growth across the nuclear sector. The partners, together with Westinghouse, are well-positioned to provide global solutions for the increasing need for secure, reliable and emissions-free baseload power.

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“Our priorities over the coming weeks will include Cameco and Brookfield conducting our first Westinghouse board meeting focused on its strategic business plan. Cameco also has a number of international commitments to fulfil over the next month with some of the most influential countries, world leaders and global organizations who are seeking our advice on how to help nuclear power realize its full potential and further amplify its contributions to a clean and secure energy future. Once those commitments have been fulfilled, Cameco will host a virtual investor day on December 19, 2023, to further discuss the exciting business prospects we see moving forward for Westinghouse,” Gitzel said.

The total enterprise value of US$7.9 billion was adjusted for working capital balances at the close, resulting in a final enterprise value of US$8.2 billion. Westinghouse has US$3.8 billion in outstanding debt commitments, for which it maintains responsibility after closing and which reduces the equity cost of the acquisition.

To finance Cameco’s 49 per cent share of the purchase price, equaling US$2.1 billion, the company used US$1.5 billion (US) of cash and drew the full amount of both US$300 million tranches of the term loan put in place concurrently with the execution of the acquisition agreement, and which mature two years and three years from the date of close. The US$280 million bridge commitment that Cameco also secured concurrently with the acquisition agreement was not required to complete the transaction and has been terminated, the company said.

The mix of capital sources to finance Cameco’s share of the acquisition was chosen to preserve its balance sheet and ratings strength while maintaining healthy liquidity. “We expect to maintain the financial strength and flexibility to execute on our strategy and take advantage of value-adding growth opportunities, while navigating by our investment-grade rating and self-managing risk. With exposure to improving prices under our long-term contract portfolio and the ongoing ramp-up to our tier-one run rate, we expect to see continued improvement in our earnings and cash flow profile,” the company said.

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“Today, we believe the demand outlook for nuclear power is better and more durable than ever, driven by the recognition of the critical role it must play in helping to solve the world’s dual climate and energy security crises. We expect this acquisition will enhance Cameco’s participation in the nuclear fuel cycle at a time when there is tremendous growth on the horizon for our industry. Globally, policy makers are focused on how to accelerate investment in the expansion of the nuclear reactor fleet by removing barriers and strengthening the nuclear fuel supply chain needed to allow nuclear power to deliver on its promise to help provide a clean and secure energy future.

“We expect this strategic and transformative acquisition will be accretive to Cameco. We are enhancing our ability to compete for more business by investing in additional nuclear fuel cycle assets that we expect will augment the core of our business and offer more solutions to our customers across the nuclear fuel cycle. Like Cameco, Westinghouse has nuclear assets that are strategic, proven, licensed and permitted, and that are in geopolitically attractive jurisdictions. We expect these assets, like ours, will participate in the growing demand profile for nuclear energy.

“Westinghouse has a stable and predictable core business generating durable cash flows. Like Cameco, Westinghouse has a long-term contract portfolio, which positions it well to compete for growing demand for new nuclear reactors and reactor services, as well as the fuel supplies and services needed to keep the global reactor fleet operating safely and reliably. This strong base of business also helps protect Westinghouse from macro-economic headwinds as utility customers run their critical nuclear power plants. Its durable and growing business is expected to allow Westinghouse to self-fund its approved annual operating budget, to maintain its existing capacity to service its annual financial obligations from de-risked cash flows, and to pay annual distributions to its owners.”

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Long term growth with renewed nuclear interest

Cameco said it believes Westinghouse is well-positioned for long-term growth driven by the expected increase in global demand for nuclear power. Cameco will receive the economic benefit of its ownership in Westinghouse as of the Nov. 7 close. Cameco will account for its proportionate interest in Westinghouse on an equity basis.

Small modular reactors

The primary drivers of the expected improvement in revenue for 2023 are the contributions from new business opportunities in markets such as Central and Eastern Europe and the benefits accruing from key business acquisitions made in 2022, which have increased sales volumes in the core business. The expected Adjusted EBITDA for 2023 is being impacted by planned expenditures for strategic initiatives, including the development of the AP300™ small modular reactor (SMR) and the eVinci™ microreactor. These investments are expected to provide new business opportunities for Westinghouse in an emerging segment of our industry, and we are optimistic about the potential for the future deployment of these technologies to make a meaningful contribution to Westinghouse’s long-term financial performance.

In 2023, over 95 per cent of Westinghouse’s adjusted EBITDA is expected to come from its core recurring business, which is stable and characterized by long-term contracts. The remaining 2023 projected adjusted EBITDA is expected to come from the energy systems business unit.

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AP1000 – the big boys of reactors

In general, the new reactor activity is driven by large, binary decisions by countries and companies to use Westinghouse’s technology, such as the licensed AP1000® reactor design, for the construction of new nuclear power plants. Once contracts are signed and work begins, these projects are expected to generate multi-year revenue streams and EBITDA for Westinghouse.

In addition to the AP1000 reactors already deployed in the US and China, Poland recently signed an engineering services contract for three AP1000 reactors for its new nuclear energy program. Ukraine has also selected the AP1000 reactor for nine units and has signed an engineering services contract for the first unit, and Bulgaria has chosen the AP1000 reactor for two units at the Kozloduy nuclear site. Engineering services contracts are required before work can begin. See AP1000 reactor new build framework below for more information.

Core growth beyond 2023

Westinghouse’s core business is characterized by recurring and predictable revenue and cash flow streams, the majority of which are secured in advance under long-term contracts with durations that can range from 3 to more than 10 years, depending on the product or service being provided. Amid the ongoing demand growth and global energy security concerns, Cameco expects there will be new opportunities for Westinghouse to compete for and win new business. “Westinghouse’s reputation as a global leader in the nuclear industry and its position as a non-Russian alternative supplier for certified VVER fuel assemblies are expected to benefit its core business as Eastern European countries seek to develop a reliable fuel supply chain independent of Russia,” the company said.

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AP1000 reactor new build framework

In addition to growth in its core business, the focus on the importance of nuclear power in providing carbon-free, secure and affordable baseload power as an essential part of the electricity grid in many countries is creating new opportunities for Westinghouse’s proven AP1000 reactor design, as well as the smaller reactor designs it has in development. Its technology and experience provide a competitive advantage as the engineering and procurement aspects of new build programs are initiated.

Company designs, but does not build, the reactors

Westinghouse undertakes its role in the design, development, engineering and procurement of equipment for new reactors. It does not provide construction services or assume any construction risk. This segment has the potential to add significant long-term value during the construction phase, and then to the core of the business through reactor services and fuel supply contracts once the reactor begins commercial operation.

Following an announcement of a successful bid, there are a number of contracts that must be signed before revenue is realized. As these large, one-time decisions by utilities to construct new nuclear power plants using Westinghouse’s proven AP1000 reactor design are made and as the associated engineering and procurement contracts are signed, we expect it will drive growth beyond that of its core business described above. However, until the contracts are signed, they will not be incorporated in the growth expectations.

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The following is an illustrative framework for the expected timing of revenue flows and profitability of the energy systems business unit.

Assumptions and estimates:

  • Cost to construct new AP1000 reactor in US based on MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) study: $6 billion to $8 billion (US), although it can vary significantly depending on in-country labour and construction productivity rates. There is a measured and noticeable scale effect where multiple reactors have been built – for example, in China, where four AP1000 reactors are in operation and six more are under construction, and the US, where two were built and one is in operation.
  • Engineering and procurement work: 25% to 40% of total plant cost, depending on the scope of the project – excluding China, where Westinghouse scope is typically less than 10% of the total project cost.
  • EBITDA margin for new build activity is expected to be aligned with the overall core business, although it can vary between 10% to 20%.

Other growth opportunities

In addition to its AP1000 reactor design, Westinghouse has submitted its pre-application Regulatory Engagement Plan with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the development of its AP300 SMR, which is based on the proven and licensed AP1000 reactor design. Its eVinci microreactor design was recently awarded US Department of Energy funding for a test reactor FEED (front-end engineering design) at Idaho National Lab. The AP300 SMR and the eVinci microreactor are expected to offer the same carbon-free baseload benefits as larger nuclear reactor technologies, but are tailored for specific applications, including industrial, remote mining, off-grid communities, defense facilities and critical infrastructure. As with the AP1000 reactor, they are expected to have applications beyond electricity generation, including district and process heat, desalination and hydrogen production. Cameco is optimistic about the future competitiveness of these technologies and their potential to make a meaningful contribution to Westinghouse’s long-term financial performance. However, they are presently still in the development phase.

Background

Westinghouse is a nuclear reactor technology original equipment manufacturer and a leading provider of highly technical aftermarket products and services to commercial nuclear power utilities and government agencies globally. The company has recurring and predictable revenue and cash flow profiles due to the critical and non-discretionary nature of its products and services to the operation of nuclear power plants around the world. Like Cameco, Westinghouse enables zero-emission baseload and dispatchable energy that is needed to support the energy transition, and it is therefore well-positioned for long-term growth.

 

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Scott Moe on Clean Electricity Regulations, a lot more nuclear power, and first mention of 1,000 megawatt reactors as a possibility

How many nuclear reactors is Saskatchewan going to build?