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Power The Almighty Buck

Delays For SC Nuclear Plant Put Pressure On the Industry 142

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

    by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @04:33PM (#47685929)
    Part of the problem is that the infrastructure and supply paths for constructing nuclear plants has to be re-constituted as no plants have been built for quite some time. In the case of the Westinghouse plants, their 'modular' assembly facilities had to be built as well and put into production. Nuclear plants require large metal components on a scale that isn't commonly needed. It also requires meticulous tracking of materials and manufacturing activities for quality assurance. Once the supply lines are re-established, it all gets a lot easier and more predictable. Its not a technology issue, its an infrastructure one. We just need to start building more.

    Even with higher than predicted costs, its still quite economic. Like any large capital project, getting it going is the hard part.
  • by KonoWatakushi ( 910213 ) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @04:54PM (#47686009)

    Typically the endless lawsuits and anti-nuclear activism are the source of delays for nuclear construction. Even if not directly, then by proxy of the NRC, which is ineffective thanks to regulations based on ALARA [] and pseudo-science (LNT []). If the NRC regulated based on solid science and legitimate safely concerns, it would be tremendously less expensive to meet nuclear safety standards. Unfortunately, our presidents have had a habit of appointing unqualified and nuclear-hostile people like Gregory Jackzo [] to lead the NRC, so the result is no surprise.

    Another source of delay, is the lack of nuclear construction for decades, leaving the construction industry and supply chains to languish. Neither cost is inherent in nuclear construction, and both can be corrected. Delays of any large construction project are very expensive, and this is the primary means employed by anti-nuclear ideologues to drive up the cost. The submitter (mdsolar) may or may not have participated, but clearly has an axe to grind and the willingness to exploit the situation to peddle his ideology

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

    by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @05:56PM (#47686215)

    You never have 50,000 death per year in the US to coal.
    Perhaps 5 to 10 in the long time average due to mining accidents. I really doubt the total number of workers mining coal is close to that number.

    As you surely know, coal plants are huge polluters and pollution causes health issues, which in turn add up to early deaths, even if we ignore damage done to environment.

    But then again, opposing nuclear power is not really about protecting humans or nature, now is it? It has long since turned into politics, where opposition is based more on identity than rational calculation of risks and rewards of various options. And who knows, perhaps being hit by the double-whammy of full-power climate change and energy crisis simultaneously will finally teach humanity to not treat important decisions as tribal identifiers. It's something we must learn before we venture beyond this planet, since the cost of irrational stupidity will continue getting higher. But I fear the lesson will be exremely painful, even by the scale of these things.

    And: fix your damn mining safety issues instead of blaming it to 'coal', mining of uranium is only marginally more safe.

    Thousandfold decrease in mining causes a thousandfold decrease in mining-related deaths, even before factoring in such details as coal being highly flammable and uranium being not. Also, unlike coal, uranium can be extracted from seawater, so with it we could theoretically eliminate mining altogether.

  • Re:Just red tape? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @06:48PM (#47686405) Homepage Journal

    You never have 50,000 death per year in the US to coal.
    Perhaps 5 to 10 in the long time average due to mining accidents. I really doubt the total number of workers mining coal is close to that number.
    And: fix your damn mining safety issues instead of blaming it to 'coal', mining of uranium is only marginally more safe.

    You can never calculate exactly how many people die from coal emissions, so I used an estimate that would be in the neighborhood. There are lots of people dying of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and bronchitis. They're going to die eventually, when their lung function goes down below a certain threshold, and coal emissions brings their lung function down a little sooner. Another vulnerable group is people with heart failure.

    Here's an estimate of 24,000 lives a year. [] In the 1980s I used to work on the same floor as a bunch of energy industry magazines, and they had reports floating around from different organizations, which I would pick up occasionally. I remember reading some surprising number like 50,000. I don't have those reports around any more so I can't easily check. It might have been 50,000 in the 1980s, because that was around the time coal plants were installing pollution control equipment. The pollution control equipment was fairly expensive, particularly because it cut the power output by about 10%. You can make coal emissions as clean as you want, if you can spend a sufficient amount of money. There were debates during the Reagan era about things like, "How much should society spend to save the life of a 4-year-old girl with asthma?" (The economists said $220,000.)

    The best-documented and highest estimates of the number of deaths from coal power that I saw came from the nuclear power industry. The worse coal looks, the better nuclear looks. They were fond of saying that coal plants had higher emissions of uranium and radium than nuclear plants did (barring catastrophe). Those guys are pretty good engineers. I hope they know what they're doing. The American Lung Association also had some similar figures.

    Coal mining used to be one of the most dangerous occupations in America, but it's gotten safer because (1) open pit mining is safer (2) even underground mining can be safe if they follow safety rules with the same diligence that the nuclear or airline industry does. There are a few companies that have a, shall we say, investor-centered approach to safety, and they have most of the accidents. The Wall Street Journal used to love to run stories about mine accidents on the front page, and look up the mine owner's records of safety violations, injuries and deaths with MSHA. In the last big US mine accident, there was strong evidence that the supervisors were deliberately violating safety rules about ventilation etc. In some countries, that would be a crime and they would go to jail.

    Uranium mining has some problems with the radioactive dust and gas in the air. I don't know if they can filter it out. You can filter anything, but you might not be able to breathe for more than 10 minutes with a filter that traps the very smallest particles, and you couldn't do any heavy work. But at least uranium mines don't have coal damp.

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

    by laird ( 2705 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .pdrial.> on Sunday August 17, 2014 @01:13AM (#47687617) Journal

    Having your military supply chain depend on countries that you might be fighting against is a terrible plan. It's also in the national interest for the US to retain engineering and manufacturing capabilities. And, of course there's the possibility that they embed controls into the devices that they sell us, the way the NSA pre-hacked hardware being sold by US companies only in the other direction.

    So really, it kinda does matter.

"It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and I'm wearing Milkbone underware." -- Norm, from _Cheers_