How two cutting edge U.S. nuclear projects bankrupted Westinghouse. In 2012, construction of a Georgia nuclear power plant stalled for eight months as engineers waited for the right signatures and paperwork needed to ship a section of the plant from a factory hundreds of miles away. The delay, which a nuclear specialist monitoring the construction said was longer than the time required to make the section, was emblematic of the problems that plagued Westinghouse Electric Co as it tried an ambitious new approach to building nuclear power plants. The approach – building pre-fabricated sections of the plants before sending them to the construction sites for assembly – was supposed to revolutionize the industry by making it cheaper and safer to build nuclear plants. But Westinghouse miscalculated the time it would take, and the possible pitfalls involved, in rolling out its innovative AP1000 nuclear plants, according to a close examination by Reuters of the projects. Those problems have led to an estimated $13 billion in cost overruns and left in doubt the future of the two plants, the one in Georgia and another in South Carolina. Overwhelmed by the costs of construction, Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy on March 29, while its corporate parent, Japan’s Toshiba Corp, is close to financial ruin . It has said that controls at Westinghouse were “insufficient.” The miscalculations underscore the difficulties facing a global industry that aims to build about 160 reactors and is expected to generate around $740 billion in sales of equipment in services in the coming decade, according to nuclear industry trade groups. The sector’s problems extend well beyond Westinghouse. France’s Areva is being restructured, in part due to delays and huge cost overruns at a nuclear plant the company is building in Finland.
Reuters 2nd May 2017 read more »