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Power The Almighty Buck

Delays For SC Nuclear Plant Put Pressure On the Industry 142

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-sure-there's-a-duke-nukem-joke-here dept.
mdsolar sends this news from the Associated Press: Expensive delays are piling up for the companies building new nuclear power plants, raising fresh questions about whether they can control the construction costs that crippled the industry years ago. The latest announcement came this week from executives at SCANA Corp., which has been warned by its builders the startup of the first of two new reactors in South Carolina could be delayed two years or more. ... That announcement may well foreshadow more delays for a sister project in eastern Georgia, and they have caught the attention of regulators and Wall Street. 'Delays generally cause cost increases, and the question becomes who's going to bear the costs?' said C. Dukes Scott, executive director of the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff, a watchdog agency that monitors SCANA Corp.'s spending.

None of this is helpful for the nuclear power industry, which had hoped its newest generation of plants in Georgia and South Carolina would prove it could build without the delays and cost overruns so endemic years ago. When construction slows down, it costs more money to employ the thousands of workers needed to build a nuclear plant. Meanwhile, interest charges add up on the money borrowed to finance construction. A single day of delay in Georgia could cost $2 million, according to an analysis by utility regulators.
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Delays For SC Nuclear Plant Put Pressure On the Industry

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  • Erm, not so much. (Score:5, Informative)

    by stomv (80392) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @05:22PM (#47685887) Homepage

    First of all, nuclear power plants are far more complex than coal plants. Sure, the steam to electric part is identical, but controlling a nuclear reaction requires far different parts than crushing and burning coal.

    Secondly, coal fired power plants are not "popping up everywhere" in America. No new coal plants will be built anytime soon, because 111(b) prevents new sources of electric generation that emit more than ~1200 lbs CO2 per MWh (coal is ~2000 lbs). A few plants have opened in the past five years; we won't see any more.

    Thirdly, it isn't "red tape" that caused this latest delay -- it's the inability for suppliers of key components of the power plant to deliver the materials on time. The parts are specialized, the vendors capable of building (some of) those parts few and far between, and the list of parts that must be assembled in order rather long. Any delay ripples through the project, and the loan (plus interest) needs to get paid back, even if the plant isn't operating yet.

    The big risk in nuclear construction is a financial risk. It isn't until much later that the nuclear reaction itself becomes a challenge.

  • Re:Just red tape? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tailhook (98486) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @05:41PM (#47685955)

    The links provided in the story are the usual, information free sort one expects from mdsolar as he plies his anti-nook trade around Slashdot. There are better news stories written about this and the bottom line is a subcontractor is falling behind making "submodules." This [heraldindependent.com] story from yesterday points the finger at Chicago Bridge & Iron in Louisiana, and this story [powermag.com] actually provides a little detail about the submodules that CB&I are trying to make. The builders are moving some of this work to other facilities and contractors because of CB&I failures. Another story [reuters.com] a year ago also names CB&I as the culprit for delays.

    So it's a manufacturing problem and not a regulator hold up. Manufacturing problems are solvable (we've built stuff like this many times) and not as appealing to mdsolar as a nasty regulatory tangle, so he deliberately avoided stories with specifics.

  • Re:Erm, not so much. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Jeeeb (1141117) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @09:54PM (#47686883)

    The source for that claim is a BusinessWeek article from 2008. Here is some actual research: http://energytransition.de/2013/04/germany-builds-minus-six-coal-plants-after-nuclear-phaseout/ [energytransition.de]

    Basically:
    1. Since the nuclear shutdown 2 new plants have been completed and 8 are under construction. However all were planned since before the nuclear shutdown.
    2. Since the nuclear shutodwn 0 new plants have been planned for consstruction. Additionally, 6 plants which were planned have been canceled.
    3. So the total change in planned German coal capacity is -6 plants and don't hold your breath for more, coal is becomming uncompetitive in Germany.

    The OP's claim that US coal exports have increased is not incorrect (http://energytransition.de/2013/04/german-reliance-on-coal-from-the-us/ [energytransition.de]). However it is a substitution affect. Not an increase in German imports. Actual coal energy production in Germany has remained flat

    P.S. Sorry for the bad formating. Slashdot butchered my attempt to add an <ol> list with superflous <p> tags

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