US Nuclear Hits More Difficulties

The NRC did the unusual action of banning the restart of a reactor. San Onofre can not restart until they have proven the reliability of the damaged steam generators.

Environmental group  the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has been fighting the DOE in federal court over a freedom of information request. That request asked for documents related to the $8.3 billion government subsidy loan guarantees that the DOE would give to Southern Co. to build the two new nuclear reactors at Vogtle nuclear plant. Southern Alliance is seeking this information so the public can know how much “skin in the game” financial stake Southern Co. actually has in the plants credit financing.

The Virgil Summer nuclear plant project, the other 2 new AP1000 reactors companies hope to build in the US are also coming under more financial questions. SCANA corp is documented as funding part of the plant with regional power company Santee Cooper making up either 55 or 45 percent of the $9 billion dollar cost for the reactors. Both percentages have been quoted as their part. Santee Cooper has already had a dispute with Shaw and Westinghouse over cost over runs even before the NRC had issued a construction permit. Now Santee is trying to find other companies to “partner” on building the reactors and share the financial stake in the project. Santee Cooper hopes to lower their stake in the reactors to 20%. Duke Energy and some Florida utilities have been approached about taking on the project. Santee Cooper also managed to take advantage of a state law that allows them to force customers to give money to the utility for building the new reactors before the reactors were even started. Customers in South Carolina have been paying extra since 2009 for the 2 new proposed reactors at Virgil Summer nuclear plant.

There have been many experts and various groups pointing out the economic issues that make these new nuclear plants not viable projects. A number of companies including Siemens, E.On and RWE have pulled out of the nuclear business with others scaling back operations in the last year. The financial details of these two new US projects needs to be publicly disclosed in order to have a real discussion about energy planning and where development should be happening.


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