Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Power United States Businesses The Almighty Buck Technology

US Nuclear Comeback Stalls As Two Reactors Are Abandoned (theaustralian.com.au) 389

Brad Plumer reports via The New York Times (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source): In a major blow to the future of nuclear power in the United States, two South Carolina utilities said on Monday that they would abandon two unfinished nuclear reactors in the state, putting an end to a project that was once expected to showcase advanced nuclear technology but has since been plagued by delays and cost overruns. The two reactors, which have cost the utilities roughly $9 billion, remain less than 40 percent built. The cancellation means there are just two new nuclear units being built in the country -- both in Georgia -- while more than a dozen older nuclear plants are being retired in the face of low natural gas prices. Originally scheduled to come online by 2018, the V.C. Summer nuclear project in South Carolina had been plagued by disputes with regulators and numerous construction problems. This year, utility officials estimated that the reactors would not begin generating electricity before 2021 and could cost as much as $25 billion -- more than twice the initial $11.5 billion estimate. The utilities also struggled with an energy landscape that had changed dramatically since the large reactors were proposed in 2007. Demand for electricity has plateaued nationwide as a result of major improvements in energy efficiency, weakening the case for massive new power plants. And a glut of cheap natural gas from the hydraulic fracturing boom has given states a low-cost energy alternative. Facing those pressures, the two owners of the project, South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper, announced they would halt construction rather than saddle customers with additional costs.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

US Nuclear Comeback Stalls As Two Reactors Are Abandoned

Comments Filter:
  • by Trax3001BBS ( 2368736 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2017 @10:39PM (#54923471) Homepage Journal

            "At the beginning of the 1980s, only one of the five WPPSS plants was nearing completion. By this time, nuclear power had been reexamined and was found to not be as clean as was originally thought. Some cities boycotted nuclear power from the plants before the facilities were even up and running. The cost overruns reached the point where more than $24 billion would be required to complete the work, but recouping funds would be a tricky matter because of less-than-promising sales. Construction halted on all but the near-completed second plant; the first plant was once again being redesigned. WPPSS was forced to default on $2.25 billion worth of municipal bonds."

            http://money.cnn.com/2017/08/0... [cnn.com]

    • by Trax3001BBS ( 2368736 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2017 @10:40PM (#54923473) Homepage Journal

              http://money.cnn.com/2017/08/0... [cnn.com]

      Man talk of the wrong link, the first paste tried to take one to facebook Correct link: http://www.investopedia.com/as... [investopedia.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There were also many plants built for much less, and on schedule. They have been running reliably for 40 years and have produced more clean power than solar and wind will for a long, long time. Areas of the US with a lot of nuclear have historically also had the lowest rates. Unfortunately for nuclear, natural gas has become too cheap to compete with and there is no value in the market place on the reliability and emission free characteristics of nuclear.

      Our failure to build new nuclear come from a lack of

      • There were also many plants built for much less, and on schedule. They have been running reliably for 40 years and have produced more clean power than solar and wind will for a long, long time. Areas of the US with a lot of nuclear have historically also had the lowest rates. Unfortunately for nuclear, natural gas has become too cheap to compete with and there is no value in the market place on the reliability and emission free characteristics of nuclear.

        Our failure to build new nuclear come from a lack of commitment. Yes, huge first of a kind projects will have budget and schedule problems. But even the more expensive existing plants have paid for themselves several times over, and many are still running and can run for another 20+ years. Unfortunately the general public has been fed a steady diet of FUD from the O&G industry for so long that they have an army of followers to help spread it. Meanwhile, the average person is completely ignorant of the real risks in comparison to stuff they accept every day.

        So, like Germany, we will spend a shitload of money on the partial solution of solar and wind, and our overall CO2 emissions will not be significantly reduced. we will suffer a failure of will, insight, and commitment.

        This. And meanwhile China is kicking our ass and build a lot of nuclear;

        http://world-nuclear-news.org/... [world-nuclear-news.org]

        There is plenty of proof out there that plants can be built on time and on scedule if they are not parsed and strangled.

      • by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @08:57AM (#54925243)

        Unfortunately for nuclear, natural gas has become too cheap to compete with and there is no value in the market place on the reliability and emission free characteristics of nuclear.

        The major problem is our shortsightedness. Nuclear plants take a long time to construct and operate for a long time as well. Natural gas prices can fluctuate a lot in the time it takes to plan, get approvals, and build a nuclear power plant, not to mention during it's operational time. Natural gas has traded for as low as $1.02 (1992) and as high as $15.39 (2005).

        The mean construction time for the 441 operational reactors from this time last year was 7.5 years. To be fair, 18 of those reactors were completed in 3 years, included 3 in the US. Argentina did it's best of offset this by taking 33 years to complete it's Atucha-2 reactor though. But this also doesn't take into account planning, zoning, approvals, etc. So ten plus years would not be an unreasonable estimate.

        If a company saw natural gas prices peak at $15 in 2005 and peak at $13 in 2008/09 they may have started planning to build a reactor. by the time they started construction, prices would have dropped to $4 for natural gas. So they panic and worry that prices will stay low as it's been below $4 since 2015. I would guess it's unlikely to stay that low, but we don't think long term in the US any longer. Everything seems to be what's happening this quarter.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Wrath0fb0b ( 302444 )

        It's not unfortunate that natural gas is cheap, since it has also displaced a ton of oil and coal power. That has netted us a major reduction in carbon emissions.

        It's unfortunate that it is also displacing nuclear, especially since natural gas prices may rise again but nuclear will remain stable for decades. And yes, agreed about the FUD and the unfortunate result. But still, cheap natural gas is an environmental win.

      • by mysticgoat ( 582871 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @10:34AM (#54925939) Homepage Journal

        They have been running reliably for 40 years and have produced more clean power than solar and wind will for a long, long time.

        It is a horse barn truism that you cannot call the stable clean if for the last forty years you've been shovelling the manure into a stall rather than hauling it away. In the US spent fuel rods, the hottest type of nuclear waste, are stored in pools on site because so far there is no place to haul them to. Any knowledgeable prospective buyer of a horse ranch would want to see the costs of manure disposal show up in the accounting books and would turn away if told that there are no costs. But the nuclear industry doesn't track the costs of disposing of its waste, arguing that those costs belong to the future so we ain't going to account for them today.

        To come to the point, parent post is so much horse shit. It perpetuates the myths that nuclear power is clean and cheap, when in reality it is "clean" only in the sense that the industry is not yet doing the cleanup that has to be done sometime. Putting off costs until tomorrow is a cute accounting trick, but it doesn't reduce the total cost.

        In summary, to use the technical language of nuclear industry marketeers, the argument presented in parent post is so much horse shit.

  • come on, olkiluoto 3 is neeeaaarly ready. maybe. possibly.

    start of construction was 2005. fixed price contract with areva was 3 billion. estimated actual cost somewhere between 8.5 and 9 billion, with it open who pays the bill(Areva doesn't want to pay it and got smacked into pieces already anyways. Siemens was part of the original contract too).

    the lesson there is that don't buy construction from the french since their pricing assumes government handouts in both quality control and purely financial manners

  • We used to be able to make nuclear plants, now we can't. Either we forgot how, or something else happened. Place your bets.
    • by guises ( 2423402 )
      My bet: something else happened. Specifically, we're not manufacturing large numbers of nuclear bombs anymore and so the incentive for having lots of nuclear plants has dried up.

      You remember back in the day, when they were predicting that nuclear plants would make electricity free? Do you remember why that was? It wasn't because nuclear plants were free, it was because the bombs were supposed to pay for the plants and the electricity was just a bonus.
    • We used to be able to make nuclear plants, now we can't. Either we forgot how, or something else happened. Place your bets.

      Let me rephrase this for you : it used to be cost efficient to generate electricity with nuclear plants, now it isn't.

    • We used to be able to make stuff, now we can't.

      There's nothing out of the ordinary in nuclear power. We have lost the ability to make most things with a reasonable cost.

    • Actually, no.

      What happened is the NIMBYs and 'Green' movement (intentional use of quotes since they are usually clueless knee-jerkers who know sweet F.A about the actual environment) made the whole thing a political football resulting in 300-400% cost increases pushing it to the borderline of economic.

      'We' could quite happily produce them for a sensible price - and the Chinese are. All that needs to be done is not intentionally pushing the costs through the roof for no actual gain in safety, efficiency, or

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @06:35AM (#54924545) Homepage Journal

        Actually, no.

        You can tell that this narrative about the Left ruining everything is nonsense by how it only ever applies to things that failed. If they were really that powerful we wouldn't be burning oil in our cars or scrapping Obamacare. And if it really worked the right wing NIMBYs would have blocked every wind farm from ever being built.

        The Chinese cancelled most of their new reactors, just finishing the ones they have already started, shortly after Fukushima. Not entirely due to safety concerns either, but because they realized that the market for nuclear power was failing and renewable energy was the smart investment. Look at China now, leading the world in wind, in electric vehicles, even giving the Tesla/Panasonic gigafactory a run for battery production.

    • Hippie environmentalists fought them tooth and nail, I assume because they prefer dumping carbon into the atmosphere. Then got older and joined the regulatory agencies.
    • We used to be able to walk on the moon too.
    • We used to be able to make nuclear plants, now we can't.

      Wrong. We never knew how to make nuclear plants worth building, and we still don't. The difference is that today, people are aware enough of that fact to stop new construction. At the time we built those plants, people were still dazzled by lies like "safe", "clean", or "too cheap to meter". Now that all of those claims have been shown to be false, nobody wants a nuke plant anywhere near them, and many of us don't want them to exist at all.

      I have high hopes for the Stellarator, but fission power is garbage.

  • by Alan Evans ( 875505 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2017 @11:14PM (#54923583)
    The NRC needs an overhaul. Modern designs are very safe and emit less radioactivity than burning coal. People are needlessly scared. People perceive threat wrong. They fear terrorist attacks and nuclear meltdowns but don't even know that smoking, heart disease and driving are considerably more likely to kill them.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @12:03AM (#54923737) Homepage

      The NRC needs an overhaul. Modern designs are very safe and emit less radioactivity than burning coal. People are needlessly scared. People perceive threat wrong. They fear terrorist attacks and nuclear meltdowns but don't even know that smoking, heart disease and driving are considerably more likely to kill them.

      It's a control issue. With second hand smoke banned almost everywhere you're not very likely to die from it unless you're a smoker. And if you are a smoker, the consequences have been explained to you in great detail. Same with heart disease, the leading cause is obesity and it's no secret. People worry about being hit by drunk drivers, not so much their own mistakes. Terrorists and meltdowns are risks we can't easily manage or mitigate, they just exist. And I'm not sure I can fully rationally explain this, but stopping a murderer seems more important than stopping an accident even though they'll both cost a life. Maybe even if it's more than one. Something to do with everyone getting their fair chance at life, if lightning strikes so be it. But to have someone else take it away from you offends me on a whole other level.

      • Meltdowns are almost always a combination of bad reactor design + human error. Both of these can be mitigated.

        People seem to conveniently forget that france has generated > 50% of its grid electricity from nuclear for over 50 years without a single major incident.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @06:37AM (#54924559) Homepage Journal

          Meltdowns are almost always a combination of bad reactor design + human error. Both of these can be mitigated.

          In theory yes, but in practice there are budgets and profitability to think about. Part of the reason why nuclear is now so expensive is because we realized that those "bordering on impossible" scenarios are actually not that unlikely and need to be addressed.

          People seem to conveniently forget that france has generated > 50% of its grid electricity from nuclear for over 50 years without a single major incident.

          Yes, it was a great welfare programme for the energy companies. The French electorate has got fed up giving them money though, which is why they are struggling to raise the funds to build plants in other countries like Hinkley C, and having to rely on Chinese investment.

      • People worry about being hit by drunk drivers, not so much their own mistakes....

        And this mentality is exactly why I fear being killed by a distracted driver far more than any drunk driver. Every idiot behind the wheel holds a capability to become distracted, and a lot of them abuse it, particularly the younger generation of drivers who are addicted to social media.

        Terrorists and meltdowns are risks we can't easily manage or mitigate, they just exist.

        Terrorism is caused by many things, and can be defined many ways. A nuclear meltdown is caused by one thing, and an entire growing industry of power alternatives exist that fully mitigate the risk of a meltdown by essential

      • but who's in control when you're selling a physically addicting substance. You'll note that the overwhelming majority of smokers in America are young and low income. There is such a thing as taking advantage of people who are in a bad situation you know?

        I worry about my own mistakes. Lots of folks do. But lots of folks have so much on their plate it's all they can do to make it through another day.
    • Except that burning coal does not emit radioactivity.
      If at all (depending on the source of the coal), the ash can contain trace amounts of uranium and/or thorium. And that ash still can be (and is) used as building material or safely be deposited.

    • by xonen ( 774419 )

      Modern designs are very safe and emit less radioactivity than burning coal.

      Correct. The primary environmental issue isn't with the safety of the reactor. That's pretty well under control and unless someone severely screws up (which also happens), a modern reactor is reasonable safe. The real issue is with the nuclear waste for which we have still no proper solution. The best solution with can think of is to dig somewhere deep in a rock, dump it in there, poor concrete over it and pray for the best.

      We have no clue at all what will geologically happen in 100,000 years. We can predic

  • by aslagle ( 441969 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2017 @11:23PM (#54923607)
    The prime factor in this decision, the bankruptcy of Westinghouse, isn't mentioned in the article until you get halfway through. I guess factors such as these don't really fit the narrative of "nuclear bad".
    • Something like $10B in loses.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The prime factor in this decision, the bankruptcy of Westinghouse, isn't mentioned in the article until you get halfway through. I guess factors such as these don't really fit the narrative of "nuclear bad".

      No, but it does fit the narrative of 'nuclear unprofitable and uneconomic, even with government backed insurance and no paying for cleanup at end of life'.

  • Originally scheduled to come online by 2018, the V.C. Summer nuclear project in South Carolina had been plagued by disputes with regulators and numerous construction problems.

    This is by design. The left has seized this approach above all others to kill nuclear power plants.

    They have networks of friendly lawyers who file bogus suits before amenable judges. They have friendly regulators that change the rules midstream. The effect is delay, delay, delay. And that means cost, cost, cost. While tthe constru

    • by Uberbah ( 647458 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @01:59AM (#54924001)

      This is by design. The left has seized this approach above all others to kill nuclear power plants.

      The same left that hasn't gotten a single policy past since Medicare/Medicaid since the 60's? Tthat couldn't get a Public Option through congress much less single payer? You're a complete idiot if you think the left has any power.

      They have networks of friendly lawyers who file bogus suits before amenable judges. They have friendly regulators that change the rules midstream. The effect is blah blah blah blah

      This is under the same government that DGAF about mass poisonings in leaded drinking water or DuPond runoff, that exports fracking to the world, and lets BP go on incompetently drilling of the coast after trying their best to run the Gulf of Mexico?

  • by peppepz ( 1311345 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @01:35AM (#54923949)
    I find it ironic that nuclear power supporters here get condescending and accuse everyone else of being anti-scientific and of living in a fantasy world, all while pointing at worldwide conspiracies in order to explain why no one invests in nuclear energy anymore, without accepting the more simple and realistic explanation that the energy source they believe to be cheap, safe and clean is neither cheap, nor safe, nor clean. It's always only a couple years away from becoming such, but its's not just there yet. And it has been so since the 80s.
    • by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @02:25AM (#54924041)
      Meanwhile, Russia is building 7 reactors right now: https://www.iaea.org/PRIS/Worl... [iaea.org] , and is collaborating with China. Russian nuclear export agency is also building reactors in Bangladesh and Thailand.

      Oh, but it's not all. Russia has the world's only power-generating fast-neutron reactor (BN-800) and is preparing to build the second generation (BN-1200) of this reactor type. All the while pursuing the revolutionary project of lead-cooled reactor (i.e. reactor cooled with molten lead as coolant) that will allow to achieve almost 100% closed loop within the territory of a power plant, including fuel reprocessing.

      Yep, US is way behind in nuclear technology, and it's entirely self-inflicted.
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @06:30AM (#54924521) Homepage Journal

        Russia has the world's only power-generating fast-neutron reactor (BN-800) and is preparing to build the second generation (BN-1200) of this reactor type.

        From Wikipedia:

        "In 2015, after several minor delays, problems at the recently completed BN-800 indicated a redesign was needed. Construction of the BN-1200 was put on "indefinite hold",[1] and Rosenergoatom has stated that no decision to continue will be made before 2019."

        That's why people aren't rushing to build these things. They are wonderful until someone notices that some unforeseen design flaw needs to be rectified, or some unforeseen stupidity mode comes to light, and suddenly it's delayed for a decade and billions are added to the price.

      • Soviet construction quality was bad already [mywebs.su], current Russian construction quality is even worse [pikabu.ru]. I wouldn't bet on a speedy completion.

    • It's clearly the evil NRC's fault that new-gen reactors are so expensive, like in the UK, Finland etc....

    • by Afty0r ( 263037 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @04:56AM (#54924331) Homepage

      the energy source they believe to be cheap, safe and clean is neither cheap, nor safe, nor clean

      Actually, it certainly is SAFE and CLEAN - but you're right that it's not cheap. Not until you take into account the cost of the CO2 emitted by LNG-burning plants which are what you get if you don't choose nuclear. Then suddenly they look real cheap.

      But no-one is taking that into account...

    • Coal, nuclear. Goose, sauce, gander.

      Natural gas is killing both coal and nuclear.

  • Where is Blindseer when you need him to debunk that article?

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser

Working...