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American nuclear power industry prospects down the drain, after Westinghouse bankruptcy

A Bankruptcy That Wrecked Global Prospects Of American Nuclear Energy, Forbes, Kenneth Rapoza , 13 Apr 17  ……The bankruptcy of Westinghouse Electric Company (WEC) has ruined its global ambitions. While the Pennsylvania-based company asserts that its March 29 filing for creditor protection doesn’t impact its businesses globally, very few seem to believe it as its Japanese parent company Toshiba Corp. warned on Tuesday that WEC may have nuked its future…….

On Tuesday, Toshiba dimmed hopes when it reported third quarter earnings losses of $5.2 billion for the 9 months ending Dec. 31. They still cannot get their earnings properly audited, prompting rumors of a delisting on the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE). Bloomberg reported that Toshiba’s continued write-down of Westinghouse nuclear power plants, all of them delayed by years and some of them being suspended outright, could hurt the company’s balance sheet so severely that it gets sentenced to second-class status on the TSE. That would trigger a deeper sell off of index funds mandated to hold the stock. If you have to point fingers, WEC’s nuclear power plant is where to aim……..
At this point, building new AP1000 nuclear power plants seems like wishful thinking.

“I see enormous difficulties ahead for Westinghouse,” says Simon Taylor, director of the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge. Westinghouse was working on an over $20-billion Toshiba-controlled project in the north of England called Moorside, intending to build three of its pressurized water reactors known as the AP1000.  Following the bankruptcy announcement, Engie, a French utility, exercised its option to sell its 40% interest to Toshiba, and quit the project. Now Toshiba is desperate to sell the fully-owned site to competitors as it doesn’t stand a single chance to raise money needed to build the plant.

Taylor thinks Westinghouse, one of the oldest names in U.S. electric power, will now have a harder time. China was their biggest hope.

“The Chinese, so far as I can tell, will never buy another AP1000 again,” Taylor says…….

[In India] . Experts doubt that any commercial contract could be signed until there is a clarity about Toshiba’s exit and Westinghouse’s own future while the calls to scrap the project altogether are gaining momentum…..

In Eastern Europe, Westinghouse prospects look even bleaker. Westinghouse has always relied in the U.S. geopolitical clout to get business there. In order to weaken Russia’s influence in the region Washington would all but force former communist countries into choosing WEC’s often untested offering or even scrapping competitors’ projects. But with all that political support the problem has always been in Westinghouse’s inability to finance its projects.

Westinghouse signed a contract in Bulgaria in 2014 for the construction of an AP1000 power plant at the Kozloduy site. There has been little progress since then as neither the client nor the vendor are capable of finding money for the project.

Back home, both of the two nuclear power plants being built in the U.S are AP1000s. Both are a combined $17 billion over budget.

Over the next 12 years, the U.S. has around 15 nuclear power plants on paper. Of those 12, five have been suspended, including Westinghouse’s planned 2029 project with Duke Energy in Florida to build two reactors. Their other Duke project, in South Carolina, is now delayed by at least three years and with this bankruptcy, will probably never get built. WEC’s two new AP1000 projects are licensed by Duke. “We’ve been monitoring Westinghouse and their other projects here and across the world…but we are not making any decisions to build and not going to speculate on that right now,” says Rita Sipe, a spokesperson for Duke Energy.

The Economist magazine speculated on April 1 that there would be ugly lawsuits in South Carolina and Georgia, adding that the future of the AP1000 “looks bleak”. Sadly, it was not an April Fool’s joke.

While it is certainly common in nuclear power plant construction to witness delays and cost over-runs, WEC seems to have carved out a niche of notoriety here. It’s finally bankrupted them.

“It’s hard to see who would be able, willing and permitted to buy WEC,” says Taylor. The Trump Administration says it is seeking a non-Chinese owner of Westinghouse. WEC is not yet talking about selling assets……


April 14, 2017 - Posted by | business and costs, USA

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