March 21, 2018

USA nuclear reactor project collapses

02 August 2017, 11:10 | Christie Tate

Santee Cooper Sign located in Moncks Corner

Santee Cooper Sign located in Moncks Corner

Two South Carolina energy companies cited ballooning construction costs, delays and a contractor bankruptcy for their decision to ditch plans on a nuclear plant.

He argued that the Georgia project's customer base is over three times larger than that in SC, and that differing financial factors may make it easier for Plant Vogtle's construction to continue.

Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy March 29, overwhelmed by the cost overruns on two reactors at the V.C. Summer plant in SC and the similar unfinished Vogtle nuclear project in Georgia.

Santee Cooper, the junior partner in the reactor project, said shelving the project would save almost $7 billion in additional costs to complete it, which would have pushed the price tag to $11.4 billion on what was only supposed to cost $5.1 billion to begin with.

They recognized that some assistance was needed to overcome the natural reluctance of any utility company to be the first to build a new nuclear plant in the more than 35 years.

"You have reached into the pocket of the consumer so many times, " Cobb said of SCE&G. SCE&G plans to use the anticipated payments resulting from the settlement of Toshiba's guaranty to mitigate cost impacts to SCE&G electric customers.

Fluor Corp., a contractor that Scana had previously said was capable of taking over the V.C. Summer project from Westinghouse, dropped as much as 6.3 percent to $41.78 in intraday trading.

"I have a feeling we're going to get a similar story from Southern", Charles Fishman, a Chicago-based analyst for Morningstar Inc., said by phone Monday.

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Another pair of SC reactor at Vogtle managed by Westinghouse are also at risk, as they're roughly three years behind schedule and $3 billion over their original budget. "It is not a criticism, it just is what it is". "We have already begun to align our operations to the plan and look forward to moving through the Chapter 11 proceedings in a swift manner".

Santee Cooper made a decision to stop building two nuclear power plants but company officials say they're still moving forward with plans to potentially increase rates over the next two years. "We're making sure our assessment is as comprehensive as possible". "This is regardless of whether the projects are completed".

During the period after EPA 2005, the federal government did not consistently advocate for the need for restoring our ability to build new nuclear projects from the bully pulpit. For the time being, work continues on Vogtle and a cost analysis is underway that will be finished next month, he said.

"Unless the nuclear industry acknowledges that there are no shortcuts to development of new nuclear power technology, it will be doomed to repeat this failure", he said.

That prompted some like Stephen Smith from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy to ask what about Plant Vogtle in Georgia?

The Vogtle project is more than $3 billion over budget and over three years behind schedule.

Originally proposed in 2007, the two-reactor expansion of the Summer plant was supposed to be completed by 2017 and 2018, respectively. Even waste materials from the fuel rods are far less of a concern because advancements in that field now allow us to reuse those spent rods far more efficiently with much less waste to store. "During the wind-down, Santee Cooper will also continue investigating federal support and additional partners to see if we can make the project economical again", Carter said.

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