August 6, 2017: nuclear energy is dead -- NPR --
A decade ago, utility executives and policymakers dreamed of a clean energy future powered by a new generation of cheap, safe nuclear reactors. Projects to expand existing nuclear plants in South Carolina and Georgia were supposed to be the start of the "nuclear renaissance."
But following the decision last week by two utilities to scrap the expansion at the Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station in South Carolina, that vision is in tatters. There's now just one nuclear expansion project left in the country, its future is also uncertain. That remaining project is an expansion at the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in eastern Georgia.
As recently as five years ago, then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu visited Plant Vogtle and declared the project the start of "the resurgence of America's nuclear industry" and a critical part of President Obama's energy strategy.
The two new reactors at Plant Vogtle were the first next-generation reactors in the country, and some of the first new reactors to be built in the U.S. in three decades. After the partial meltdown at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island in 1979, the U.S. nuclear industry went into hibernation for more than two decades.
Then there were setbacks. First came the global financial crisis, which flattened the demand for electricity. Then fracking flooded the market with cheap natural gas. Renewable energy — especially wind power — also got more competitive.Later, 3:26 p.m. Central Time: see first comment. Apparently, other nuclear reactors on the east coast are also under scrutiny --
Potentially significant, related story playing out with the Millstone nuclear plants in Connecticut.
The two units provide over 2,000 MW capacity and the owner is saying they may shut down soon unless subsidies similar to those in Ohio and New York are forthcoming.
I've said many times on the blog that nuclear energy is dead. I never got any push back.
Today, the final nails in that coffin: The Washington Post reports that building of nuclear reactors in South Carolina has come to an abrupt halt. I'm not sure if this was a news story or an op-ed by The Post:
The long quest to revive America’s nuclear power industry suffered a crippling setback on Monday when two South Carolina utilities halted construction on a pair of reactors that were once expected to showcase a modern design for a new age of nuclear power.
The project has been plagued by billions of dollars of cost overuns (sic), stagnant demand for electricity, competition from cheap natural gas plants, and the bankruptcy of Westinghouse Electric, the lead contractor and the designer of the AP1000 reactor that was supposed to be the foundation of a smarter, cheaper generation of nuclear power plants.
Instead, the South Carolina reactors, along with two others under construction in Georgia, have demonstrated that the main obstacle to new nuclear power projects is an economic one.
The plants would be more viable if the federal government were to impose a tax on carbon as part of climate change policy, but that seems unlikely.Killing these projects would not have been done if analyses did not show that natural gas was going to be available and affordable for at least the next 30 years.
With regard to a carbon tax, it certainly is not wind or solar killing nuclear energy -- anyone suggesting that has no clue how much wind/solar it would take to replace one nuclear plant -- there simply is not enough land for wind/solar to do that.
The reason story that is coming out of this story is this: GE and others are developing really, really good peaker generators to back up what little wind/solar energy offers.