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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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  • Just red tape? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Elledan (582730) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @05:05PM (#47685819) Homepage
    It always amazes me to hear about cost overruns and delays with new nuclear plants considering that in essence they're little more complex than coal plants, which keep popping up everywhere without any apparent issues.

    So, is it just the red tape causing delays, or is it something else which make a nuclear plants so much more complex than a coal or gas plant?
  • by McGruber (1417641) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @05:24PM (#47685895)
    Since 2009, Georgia electric customers have been paying a "Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery” fee to fund the building of the Plant Vogle reactors. This tax currently adds 7.6% to a customer's electric monthly bill.

    Here is an October 2013 article about a protest against the tax: Georgia Power Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery Tariff Excites Local Protest [dadesentinel.com]

    And here's an organization that is protesting the tax: STOPCWIP.COM, which is short for STOP Construction Work In Progress [stopcwip.com]

    They point out that the Nuke owners are guaranteed a 11.5% return no matter how late the plant is:

    In 2009, the Georgia General Assembly passed “Georgia Nuclear Energy Financing Act,” making it legal for Georgia electric utilities to charge customers in advance to construct the nuclear reactors. The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) subsequently approved Georgia Power and other owners of Plant Vogtle to charge the CWIP tax which will be collected during the whole construction period, no matter how long it will take, and allow Georgia Power and the other Vogtle owners a guaranteed profit with a protected return on investment of 11.15%.

  • Brand new designs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @05:25PM (#47685899)
    The AP-1000 is a brand new design and apparently they are having troubles building many of the components, as well as with the in place fabrication techniques. In theory, once they fix those problems follow on plants should be able to be built faster because the teething problems would be solved. the reality is it will be hard to convince people to build them because of the delays.
  • Re:Just red tape? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nbauman (624611) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @05:27PM (#47685907) Homepage Journal

    It always amazes me to hear about cost overruns and delays with new nuclear plants considering that in essence they're little more complex than coal plants, which keep popping up everywhere without any apparent issues.

    So, is it just the red tape causing delays, or is it something else which make a nuclear plants so much more complex than a coal or gas plant?

    One reason is that they have a lot of quality control. If you have a stuck valve inside a reactor, you can't just go to Home Depot and get a replacement.

    Reactors are even more critical than aircraft. If a commercial airliner goes down, 300 people die. If a reactor blows up, you've got Chernobyl.

    The tight specifications are required not only for individual components, but also for the fault trees for the system as a whole. It's hard to eliminate the possibility of some unexpected failure along a pathway in the appendices of the safety documents that was assigned an insignificant probability. Like a tsunami overwhelming the system.

    The nuclear industry will tell you that the slow regulatory approval, with lots of opportunities for nuclear opponents to slow things down, are another reason.

    I don't have a conclusion about nuclear power myself. OTOH, 200 tons of uranium can cause a really bad day. OTOH, we've been running a couple of hundred nuclear power plants worldwide for, what, 40 years, and we've had only one major accident and a couple of minor ones. The health effects of coal power plant emissions are so horrible (50,000 deaths a year in the U.S., more in China) that coal makes nuclear look attractive. I've been waiting for affordable solar and wind power for a long time.

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

    by mdsolar (1045926) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @08:45PM (#47686631) Homepage Journal
    "setbacks stem from a delay in fabrication and delivery of modules from Chicago Bridge & Iron out of Lake Charles, La., SCE&G officials said. They said 100 out of 146 project milestones have been completed, but many of them are being delayed because of a large structural module called a CAO1 that has not been delivered by CB&I.

    SCE&G officials said as many as half of the construction milestones could fall outside the 18-month construction window allowed by state regulators under the existing Summer guidelines.

    The delay revealed last year was estimated by SCE&G to cost about $278 million. In April, the S.C. Energy Users Committee and the Sierra Club took SCE&G to the Supreme Court asking that those cost delays be borne by SCE&G, not ratepayers, after the PSC ruled the charges could be passed off to the public."

    Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2014/0... [thestate.com]
  • by Chas (5144) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @12:46AM (#47687471) Homepage Journal

    Honestly. This is just going to continue being a problem for these overly complex, Rube Goldberg device solid fuel, pressurized water reactors.

    Creating the fission reaction is the EASY part. Even keeping it under control is fairly brain-dead simple. The problem is that a psychotic amount of over-engineering goes into a complex, heavily layered disaster shutdown system. And, because the engineering is so complex, and the tolerances so exacting, even marginal variances explode the project from expensive to "snorting cash like a 50,000hp vacuum" boondoggle in negative three seconds.

    This is one of the big reasons I'm a huge fan of molten salt reactors. In an emergency, you dump the reactor vessel, separating the fuel from the catalyst.
    The reaction stops. And the system cools off. PLUS, there's no water under high temperature and pressure looking to explode and turn your powerplant into the Oz Scarecrow (they tore my legs off and they threw them over there, and then they tore my chest out and threw it over THERE!).

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