Nuclear news roundup for October 4, 2013

Bad news for South Carolina’s new nuclear construction effort

cost over runThe construction of two Westinghouse 11oo MW AP1000 nuclear reactors at the VC Summer site will cost at least $1 billion more and could delay hot start to mid-2019 for one and the other by as much as a year later in 2020.

Scana Corp., the parent firm of South Carolina Electric & Gas, which has a majority stake (55%) in the project, says it has been told by Westinghouse and by Chicago Bridge & Iron (CB&I) that costs related to large, long lead time procurement items have gone up and it will take longer to delivery and install them.

The delays are preliminary estimates, Scana Corp. told the Associated Press on Oct 2. In terms of who is going to eat the costs, these decisions are subject to negotiations between the customer and its vendors.

Also, given that the reactors are being built in a state which has regulated electricity markets, Scana Corp. has to balance its relationships with its vendors and at the same time be mindful of what the PUC may allow in terms of passing on new costs to customers.

Kentucky Governor Beshear pushes nuclear energy in a coal state

coal-trainIt’s not easy to talk about nuclear energy in a state which has seen coal as one of its economic mainstays for generations.  Yet, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is doing just that in announcing a $20 million energy research program.

Kentucky has a law on the books banning the development of a nuclear reactor within its borders until a federal high level waste facility can accept spent fuel. The recent waste confidence ruling by the NRC may have given the state an opening to reconsider the ban.

Beshear has talked about using a nuclear reactor to provide electricity to power a coal gasification plant and related coal conversion infrastructure.

He said in press statement, “Nuclear energy is here to stay in the world, and . . . it is going to continue to develop.”  He added that even if work started on a new nuclear reactor for Kentucky, it could take upwards to two decades before it would be providing power.

Beshear said the state needs to have conversations with some companies about the future of nuclear energy in the blue grass state.

DOE’s Ponman in exit from government service links nuclear energy and climate change

Daniel_Poneman_official_portraitOutgoing DOE official Daniel Poneman (right) said in a speech last week that the Department of Energy will continue to play a key role in the development of nuclear energy as a strategy for addressing climate change. He called the two “existential issues” which will determine the future of the existence of the human species on the planet.

Poneman said the role of nuclear energy is to replace fossil fuels especially for power generation.  “It is a long-term element of a low carbon portfolio.”

When asked about opposition to nuclear energy, especially in light of the events taking place at Fukushima, Japan, in March 2011, Poneman said he considers himself to be a “realist.”

“The fact is the world is turning to nuclear,” he said, and pointed out 70 plants are being built world wide indicating a comeback for the industry.

He also said at the US must lead in addressing nonproliferation issues. The more robust the nuclear energy industry is in the US, the more it benefits the nation in terms of safety and security.

Turkey to speed up construction of 5 Gwe nuclear power station

taner_yildiz_manset_1319Turkey’s energy minister Taner Yildiz (left)  said following a meeting with Rosatom officials in Moscow that his country wants to speed up the construction of four 1200 MW Russian supplied VVER light water reactor at Akkuyu in the Mediterranean coast.

So far the only work that has taken place are environmental studies, construction and licensing plans, and port construction.  The project is expected to break ground in 2016 and enter revenue service four years later.

The Russians will finance the reactors and sell electricity from them at a guaranteed rate for 15 years after which time the units will be offered for sale to equity investors. Russia will supply the fuel for the reactors and take back the spent fuel.

Turkey has plans for one other nuclear power station of similar size at Sinop on the Black Sea coast. That site is expected to host four Mitsubishi built reactors providing 1150 MW each. Construction is expected to start in 2017.  Plans for a third site near the Bulgarian border are still in flux.

Vietnam to train nuclear workforce

In September a key official in the Vietnamese government said the country was postponing construction of the first of eight planned nuclear reactors for “safety reasons.” It turns out the underlying circumstance is the lack of a trained workforce of nuclear engineers and technicians.  The Ministry of Science and Technology released information last week to the IAEA that it needs at least 6000 trained workers to support its nuclear plans, but only has about 1300 at the present time.

A nuclear training expert, Brian Molloy, of the IAEA, told a Vietnamese wire service that it could take the country 7-10 years to train that many workers and that the government would need to raise the pay for the workers to attract people to the field.

Deputy minister of the science ministry, Tran Viet Thanh, has told Vietnam’s energy agencies to speed up human-resource development to meet future nuclear power demand for skilled workers.

The government is working with Vietnamese universities to develop undergraduate and graduate level training programs to meet the needs of the nuclear energy effort. Also, some trainees are being sent overseas for training including to Russia, which will supply VVER reactors to Vietnam.

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2 Responses to Nuclear news roundup for October 4, 2013

  1. Martin Burkle says:

    It is interesting that the South Carolina project is running into cost problems with the construction of modules while many in the industry are pushing modular construction as a major way to reduce costs. After all, SMR stands for small MODULAR reactors. If the factory is not efficient, then all of the nuclear projects will be over budget.


    • It is a mystery to me how the long-lead time items, for which there should have been at least letters of intent with suppliers if not contracts for deliverables with delivery dates, are now being delayed.  I would not be surprised if the fingerprints of “intervenors” would be found if you dusted for them.

      There’s a difference between a modular plant, with modules provided by different contractors, and a reactor that is a single module that is built under one roof.  Once a single manufacturer has essentially the entire fabrication chain in its own facility, the likelihood of supply-chain problems drops dramatically.


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