Nuclear renaissance in the United States

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George W. Bush signing the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was designed to promote US nuclear reactor construction, through incentives and subsidies, including cost-overrun support up to a total of $2 billion for six new nuclear plants.[1]

Between 2007 and 2009, 13 companies applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for construction and operating licenses to build 30 new nuclear power reactors in the United States. However, the case for widespread nuclear plant construction was eroded due to abundant natural gas supplies, slow electricity demand growth in a weak US economy, lack of financing, and uncertainty following the Fukushima nuclear disaster.[2] Many license applications for proposed new reactors were suspended or cancelled.[3][4] Only a few new reactors will enter service by 2020.[2] These will not be the cheapest energy options available, but they are an attractive investment for utilities because the government mandates that taxpayers pay for construction in advance.[5][6] In 2013, four aging, uncompetitive, reactors were permanently closed: San Onofre 2 and 3 in California, Crystal River 3 in Florida, and Kewaunee in Wisconsin.[7][8] Vermont Yankee, in Vernon, is scheduled to close in 2014, following many protests. New York State is seeking to close Indian Point Energy Center, in Buchanan, 30 miles from New York City.[8]

Neither climate change abatement, nor the Obama Administration’s endorsement of nuclear power with $18.5 billion in loan guarantees, have been able to propel nuclear power in the US past existing obstacles. 27 nuclear reactors have been leaking radioactive tritium into the watershed. The Fukushima nuclear disaster hasn’t helped either, because radiation from the accident has turned up in water and milk in the United States.[9]

Overview[edit]

The Energy Policy Act of 2005, offered the nuclear power industry many financial incentives and economic subsidies that, according to economist John Quiggin, the "developers of wind and solar power could only dream of". The Act provides substantial loan guarantees, cost-overrun support of up to $2 billion total for multiple new nuclear power plants, and the extension of the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act through to 2025. This extensive policy support was widely seen as a forerunner to a "nuclear renaissance" in the United States, with dozens of new plants being announced.[10]

However, many license applications filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for proposed new reactors were suspended or cancelled.[3][4] As of February 2014, plans for about 30 new reactors in the United States have translated into five reactors beginning construction. These include Virgil C. Summers Units 2 and 3, Vogtle units 3 and 4 and Watts Bar, in Tennessee, which was begun in 1973, but is running over budget and behind schedule and may now be completed in December 2015.[11][12][13][14] Matthew Wald from the New York Times has reported that "the nuclear renaissance is looking small and slow".[15]

In 2008, the Energy Information Administration projected almost 17 gigawatts of new nuclear power reactors by 2030, but in its 2011 projections, it "scaled back the 2030 projection to just five".[16] A survey conducted in April 2011 found that 64 percent of Americans opposed the construction of new nuclear reactors.[17] A survey sponsored by the Nuclear Energy Institute, conducted in September 2011, found that "62 percent of respondents said they favor the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity in the United States, with 35 percent opposed".[18]

As of December 2011, construction by Southern Company on two new nuclear units has begun, and they are expected to be delivering commercial power by 2016 and 2017.[19][20] But, looking ahead, experts see continuing challenges that will make it very difficult for the nuclear power industry to expand beyond a small handful of reactor projects that "government agencies decide to subsidize by forcing taxpayers to assume the risk for the reactors and mandating that ratepayers pay for construction in advance".[6]

As of 2014, the U.S. nuclear industry began a new lobbying effort, hiring three former senators — Evan Bayh, a Democrat; Judd Gregg, a Republican; and Spencer Abraham, a Republican — as well as William M. Daley, a former staffer to President Obama. The initiative is called Nuclear Matters, and it has begun a newspaper advertising campaign.[21]

Detailed history[edit]

  • In April 2009, Ameren Missouri canceled plans to build a second reactor at its mid-Missouri nuclear power plant. A key stumbling block was a law barring utilities from charging customers the costs of a new power plant before it starts producing electricity. The new nuclear plant would have cost at least $6 billion.[4][23]
  • As of September 2010, ground has been broken the Vogtle project and one other reactor in South Carolina. Two other reactors in Texas, four in Florida and one in Missouri have all been "moved to the back burner, mostly because of uncertain economics".[25]
  • On October 8, 2010, Constellation Energy Vice President and CEO Michael J. Wallace informed the US Department of Energy that it was abandoning its partnership with Electricite de France (EDF) to build the Calvert Cliffs #3 nuclear plant due primarily to the high cost and "burdensome conditions" that the loan guarantee conditions, which the United States government would place on the project. Wallace, in his letter, stated that any next steps in the further pursuit of the loan guarantee and the overall project were "for EDF to determine".[26]
  • On Oct 29, 2010 Dominion president Tom Farrell told investors that Dominion had decided to slow its development of a proposed third reactor at North Anna Nuclear Generating Station and wait until the combined construction permit-operating license (COL) was approved by the NRC before deciding to complete the project. This approval is expected in early 2013.[27]
  • Generation III reactors are safer than older reactors like the GE MAC 1 at Fukushima, Vermont Yankee and other plants around the world. But after a decade in which the federal government policy promoted this new version of nuclear power, only one Generation III+ reactor project has been approved in the United States. Work on it has just begun in Georgia, and already "there are conflicts between the utility, Southern Company and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission".[28] Moreover, this project is going forward only because it is in one of the few regions of the United States (the Southeast) where electricity markets were not deregulated. That means "the utility, operating on cost-plus basis, can pass on to rate-payers all its expense over-runs".[28]
  • Following the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, NRG Energy has decided to abandon already started construction on two new nuclear power plants in Texas. Analysts attributed the abandonment of the South Texas Nuclear Generating Station project to the financial situation of the plant-partner TEPCO, the inability to raise other construction financing, the current low cost of electricity in Texas, and expected additional permitting delays.[29] NRG has written off its investment of $331 million in the project.[30]
  • A survey conducted in April 2011 found that 64 percent of Americans opposed the construction of new nuclear reactors.[17] A survey sponsored by the Nuclear Energy Institute, conducted in September 2011, found that "62 percent of respondents said they favor the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity in the United States, with 35 percent opposed".[18]
  • As of January 2012, Progress Energy plans to cancel the main development and construction contract for its proposed Levy County Nuclear Power Plant, and documents show that the utility won't bring the plant online until at least 2027 — if at all. But if the state continues to allow the utility to collect money for the project, customers will have to keep paying the so-called advance fee for years.[31]
  • In 2013, four aging, uncompetitive, reactors were permanently closed: San Onofre 2 and 3 in California, Crystal River 3 in Florida, and Kewaunee in Wisconsin.[7][8] The state of Vermont is trying to close Vermont Yankee, in Vernon. New York State is seeking to close Indian Point Energy Center, in Buchanan, 30 miles from New York City.[8]
  • The additional cancellation of five large reactor uprates (Prairie Island, 1 reactor, LaSalle, 2 reactors, and Limerick, 2 rectors), four by the largest nuclear company in the U.S., suggest that the nuclear industry faces "a broad range of operational and economic problems".[34]
  • As of July 2013, economist Mark Cooper (academic) has identified some US nuclear power plants that face particularly significant challenges to their continued operation.[34] These are Palisades, Fort Calhoun, Nine Mile Point, Fitzpatrick, Ginna, Oyster Creek, Vermont Yankee, Millstone, Clinton, Indian Point. Cooper says the lesson here for policy makers and economists is clear: "nuclear reactors are simply not competitive".[34]
  • On August 1, 2013 as part of a comprehensive settlement with Florida consumers, Duke Energy announced termination of the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) agreement for the Levy County Nuclear Power Plant project.[35] Research published in May 2013 by The Tampa Bay Times showed that a plant fueled by natural gas was nearly certain to be cheaper than a nuclear-fueled plant over the next 6 decades.[36] About $1 billion had been spent on the preparatory work for the Levy nuclear project.[37]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ John Quiggin (8 November 2013). "Reviving nuclear power debates is a distraction. We need to use less energy". The Guardian. 
  2. ^ a b Ayesha Rascoe (Feb 9, 2012). "U.S. approves first new nuclear plant in a generation". Reuters. 
  3. ^ a b Eileen O'Grady. Entergy says nuclear remains costly Reuters, May 25, 2010.
  4. ^ a b c Terry Ganey. AmerenUE pulls plug on project Columbia Daily Tribune, April 23, 2009.
  5. ^ Matthew Wald (June 11, 2013). "Atomic Power’s Green Light or Red Flag". New York Times. 
  6. ^ a b "Experts: Even higher costs and more headaches for nuclear power in 2012". MarketWatch. 28 December 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Mark Cooper (18 June 2013). "Nuclear aging: Not so graceful". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 
  8. ^ a b c d Matthew Wald (June 14, 2013). "Nuclear Plants, Old and Uncompetitive, Are Closing Earlier Than Expected". New York Times. 
  9. ^ Sovacool, BK and SV Valentine. The National Politics of Nuclear Power: Economics, Security, and Governance (London: Routledge, 2012), p. 82.
  10. ^ John Quiggin (8 November 2013). "Reviving nuclear power debates is a distraction. We need to use less energy". The Guardian. 
  11. ^ http://www.nei.org/Issues-Policy/New-Nuclear-Energy-Facilities/Building-New-Nuclear-Facilities
  12. ^ "TVA Releases Cost, Schedule Estimates for Watts Bar Nuclear Unit 2". TVA. April 5, 2012. 
  13. ^ Matthew L. Wald (December 7, 2010). Nuclear ‘Renaissance’ Is Short on Largess The New York Times.
  14. ^ "Team France in disarray: Unhappy attempts to revive a national industry". The Economist. December 2, 2010. 
  15. ^ Matthew L. Wald. (September 23, 2010). "Aid Sought for Nuclear Plants". Green. The New York Times. 
  16. ^ Mark Cooper (July 2011). "The implications of Fukushima: The US perspective". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 67 (4). p. 8. 
  17. ^ a b M. V. Ramana (July 2011). "Nuclear power and the public". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 67 (4). p. 44. 
  18. ^ a b "Americans' Support for Nuclear Energy Holds at Majority Level 6 Months After Japan Accident". PR Newswire. 3 October 2011. 
  19. ^ http://www.southerncompany.com/nuclearenergy/construction.aspx
  20. ^ http://www.southerncompany.com/nuclearenergy/southern_nuclear.aspx
  21. ^ Matthew Wald (April 27, 2014). "Nuclear Industry Gains Carbon-Focused Allies in Push to Save Reactors". New York Times. 
  22. ^ "6 arrested in protest at North Anna site". Daily Progress. August 7, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  23. ^ Nuke plant is, well, nuked. Not gonna happen
  24. ^ TVA plan for Ala. nuclear plant drops to 1 reactor
  25. ^ Matthew L. Wald. Aid Sought for Nuclear Plants Green, September 23, 2010.
  26. ^ Letter from Michael J. Wallace, Constellation Energy, to US Department of Energy Deputy Secretary Dan Poneman, October 8, 2010. [1].
  27. ^ "Dominion's 3rd-quarter net income declines". WTOP Radio. Oct 29, 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-10. 
  28. ^ a b Christian Parenti (April 18, 2011). "Nuclear Dead End: It's the Economics, Stupid". The Nation. 
  29. ^ NRG ends project to build new nuclear reactors
  30. ^ Matthew L. Wald (April 19, 2011). "NRG Abandons Project for 2 Reactors in Texas". New York Times. 
  31. ^ Ivan Penn (January 26, 2012). "Progress Energy looking to cancel main construction contract for building Levy County nuclear plant". Tampa Bay Times. 
  32. ^ "Exelon scraps Texas reactor project". Nuclear Engineering International. 29 August 2012. 
  33. ^ Matthew L. Wald. A Nuclear Giant Moves Into Wind The New York Times, August 31, 2010.
  34. ^ a b c Mark Cooper (July 18, 2013). "Renaissance in reverse". Vermont Law School. 
  35. ^ Matthew L. Wald (August 1, 2013). "Florida Nuclear Project Is Dropped". The New York Times. Retrieved August 3, 2013. 
  36. ^ PennIvan Penn (August 1, 2013). "Duke Energy to cancel proposed Levy County nuclear plant". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved August 3, 2013. "In May, the Times reported that, over a 60 year lifespan, the Levy plant would cost more than an equivalent natural gas plant under any reasonable scenario." 
  37. ^ "Levy nuclear plant project shelved". World Nuclear News. 2 August 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  38. ^ "Nine Mile Point COL lodged". World Nuclear News. 2 October 2008. Retrieved 8 October 2008. 
  39. ^ Associated Press (6 December 2013). "Effort to build new Lake Ontario nuke plant halted". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 

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