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Increasing doubts about the future of nuclear energy

Doubts Surface About Nuclear Energy After S.C. Project Is Halted, WFAE 90.7,   AUG 22, 2017 “…….On July 31, Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas announced they were abandoning construction of two new reactors at the V.C. Summer plant north of Columbia. The immediate reasons were simple: The project was four years behind schedule and at least $5 billion over budget.

CEO Kevin Marsh of SCANA, the parent company of South Carolina Electric & Gas, said it no longer made financial sense, especially after Santee Cooper pulled out.

“What really led us to this decision on the abandonment was looking at the costs going forward. And, of course in our case, without a partner, it made that cost just too much for our customers to bear,” Marsh told analysts earlier this month.

But there were other factors. One was this spring’s bankruptcy of the lead contractor and reactor designer, Westinghouse Electric. Fallout from its troubles is now hitting other projects, including one in Georgia.

Also, demand for electricity isn’t growing as fast as it once was – in part, because of energy efficiency. And then there’s the boom in other forms of energy that weren’t in the picture two decades ago when planning for these plants began, according to Kit Konolige, senior utilities industry analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence…..

Nuclear power is on the decline in most places, with the exception of China and India. California’s lone remaining nuclear plant will close in 2025. And Germany is phasing out nuclear by 2022, after shutting nearly half its reactors after Fukushima.

Troubles at projects like those in South Carolina, and a reliance on existing nuclear plants, make nuclear’s future a critical question for Duke Energy. …..

Last year, the company won federal licenses for two new nuclear plants in South Carolina and Florida, using the same Westinghouse reactor designs as the now halted South Carolina project. They could cost more than $11 billion each and take a decade to build. The question is whether it makes business sense, says Duke spokesman Rick Rhodes.

“We have what’s called a combined construction and operating license for those two projects. However, we’ve not made a decision to build either of those plants. As I said, we are watching closely what’s going on in the industry,” Rhodes said.

The decision will depend on what happens to Westinghouse, how much the plants will cost and how fast electricity demand grows, he said.

Bloomberg’s Konolige doesn’t see nuclear power regaining any momentum.

“Personally, I think it will be very difficult to justify building new nuclear plants. From a shareholder’s viewpoint, they just represent a tremendous amount of uncertainty over a long period of time. And obviously a great expenditure of capital,” he said.

Capital that companies like Duke may decide is better spent elsewhere.


August 25, 2017 - Posted by | general

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