The nuclear revival the global industry has been hoping for took another hammer blow this week when two reactors under construction in South Carolina were abandoned, only 40 percent complete. The plan had been to build two Westinghouse AP1000 pressurized water reactors to lead the nuclear revival in the U.S., but cost overruns and delays dogged the project and will have the opposite effect. This is a further humiliation for Westinghouse, the U.S. nuclear giant that earlier this year filed for bankruptcy because of the costs associated with this new design. Hopes that a new generation of reactors could be built in the U.S. and sold to the rest of the world rested on the success of this project, and it has spectacularly failed. By this week, construction had already cost $9 billion, almost the entire original budget, with years of building still to go. The reactors were originally scheduled to begin producing power in 2018, but this had been put back to 2021. Cost overruns had meant the final cost could be $25 billion. Around 5,000 construction workers have lost their jobs.
Ecowatch 4th Aug 2017 read more »
A decade ago, utilities were persuading politicians around the country to let them spend big to go nuclear. Expanding nuclear energy capacity was a sure bet, they said: Natural gas prices were rising, energy needs skyrocketing, and the federal government was poised to cripple carbon-emitting fossil fuel plants. With a dozen or more nuclear power projects being developed around the nation, cost savings could be found through simultaneous construction. State legislators were sold. In South Carolina, they even passed a law allowing utilities to charge customers up front and to recoup their investments even if the projects never produced a kilowatt. Several other Southern states also passed “pay-as-you-go” laws. This week, having spent more than $10 billion, executives with South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper acknowledged that all their assumptions were wrong. Worse still: Consumers may have to pay billions more on the rusting remains of two partially-built reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station north of Columbia.
US News 5th Aug 2017 read more »
Utility Dive noted that a factor compounding these financial woes is politics. If Summer were to be completed, the construction delays would move the completion date from somewhere between 2017 and 2018 to sometime after the end of 2021, when the Energy Policy Act of 2005 is set to expire. That act would have offered Summer’s owners an important federal tax credit for nuclear energy, which they can’t take advantage of after the act has expired. In comments to the South Carolina Public Service Commission on Tuesday, SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh said that an extension of those tax credits passed the House of Representatives. But the extension has been stalled in the Senate, he continued, in part due to the contentious and protracted debate on the Affordable Healthcare Act. This week, Marsh said that he and leaders from Southern Company—which partially owns the similarly unfinished Vogtle plant in Georgia—went to Washington, DC, multiple times since Westinghouse’s bankruptcy. There, they had “very direct discussions with high officials in the White House, the Department of Energy, and other connected people to the energy business or sector, in Washington.” “We delivered our message very directly, very clearly, in terms of what we were looking for to support the projects,” Marsh said. “I believe they made an effort to evaluate options they had available, where they thought they could help us. We went as high as Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy, in the last meeting we had up there, and we’ve not gotten a response. We did hear from the Department of Energy. They called and offered us a DOE loan, which we had evaluated earlier, but that doesn’t help the situation we’re in.” That’s strange news given how enthusiastic President Trump and Secretary Perry have been publicly about nuclear energy. The administration often points to nuclear and coal as top priorities for US energy development, distancing itself from wind and solar resources, whose prices, unlike nuclear and coal, continue to plummet.
Ars Technica 5th Aug 2017 read more »