Annual Energy Outlook - 2011
Release Date: April 26, 2011 | Next Release Date: April 2012
EPACT2005 tax credits stimulate some nuclear builds
In the AEO2011 Reference case, nuclear power capacity increases from 101.0 gigawatts in 2009 to 110.5 gigawatts in 2035 (Figure 82), including 3.8 gigawatts of expansion at existing plants and 6.3 gigawatts of new capacity. The new capacity includes completion of a second unit at the Watts Bar site, where construction on a partially completed plant has resumed. Increases in the estimated costs for new nuclear plants make new investments in nuclear power uncertain. Four new nuclear power plants are completed in the Reference case, all of which are brought on line by 2020 to take advantage of Federal financial incentives. High construction costs for nuclear plants, especially relative to natural-gas-fired plants, make other options for new nuclear capacity uneconomical even in the alternative electricity demand and fuel price cases. In the GHG Price Economywide case, which attaches a price to reductions in carbon dioxide, total nuclear capacity additions from 2010 to 2035 increase to 29 gigawatts as a consequence of the higher costs for operating fossil-fueled capacity.
see figure data userfiles/file/EIA Energy Outlook 2011.pdf
One nuclear unit, Oyster Creek, is expected to be retired at the end of 2019, as announced by Exelon in December 2010. All other existing nuclear units continue to operate through 2035 in the Reference case, which assumes that they will apply for, and receive, operating license renewals, including in some cases a second 20-year extension after they reach 60 years of operation. As discussed in last year's "Issues in focus" section, it will likely be a decade or more before significant insight can be gained regarding what will happen beyond 60 years. With costs for natural-gas-fired generation rising and future regulation of GHG emissions uncertain, the economics of keeping existing nuclear power plants in operation are favorable.
SUBSIDIES OFTEN EXCEED THE VALUE OF THE ENERGY PRODUCED
This report catalogues in one place and for the first time the full range of subsidies that benefit the nuclear power sector. The findings are striking: since its inception more than 50 years ago, the nuclear power industry has benefited—and continues to benefit—from a vast array of preferential government subsidies.
Nuclear Power: Still Not Viable without Subsidies
by Ronald Brownstein
The Price Is Not Right
Until the risks associated with producing energy are reflected in its price,
the market will be distorted.
Thursday, March 17, 2011 | 2:44 p.m.
Japan’s nuclear catastrophe, unfolding less than a year after the devastating BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, underscores the powerful message that every source of energy carries some risk. No legislation, no regulation, no contingency plan can completely extinguish that danger. Accidents will happen (as in the mine cave-ins that regularly punctuate the world’s production of coal); natural disasters will overwhelm our preparations (as in Japan); and the production and consumption of energy will strain the environment (as through the accumulating danger of global climate change). Power without risk is an unrealistic goal.
But it’s not unrealistic to demand better ways to understand and compare the relative dangers posed by the competing energy sources—oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, and renewable options such as solar and wind. That’s almost impossible to do now because so few of the risks associated with these sources are incorporated into their price. The operation of energy markets today actually impedes our ability to rationally assess and prepare for energy-related dangers, because the prices we pay provide such a distorted picture of the true costs, and full risks, of the power we consume.
“There is no doubt that the pricing in the energy system in the United States today does not reflect the full cost we as a society bear for the way we produce and consume energy,” says Joseph Aldy, until recently the chief environmental economist for President Obama at the National Economic Council. “Across the board, we are not fully accounting for the risks.”
Aldy and other experts see two principal ways in which prices now fail to “internalize” (as economists say) energy risks. One is the peril of a sudden catastrophic accident, such as a nuclear-radiation release or oil spill.
In the U.S., those dangers are not fully reflected in the price of nuclear power or oil because federal law limits producers’ liability in case of calamity.
read more... userfiles/file/NationalJournal-ThePriceisNotRight3-17-11.pdf
Natural Gas Now Viewed as Safer Bet
By JAD MOUAWAD
Published: March 21, 2011
Excerpt: It is far too early to say for sure whether the calamitous events in Japan may roll back the global nuclear revival and lead to a surge in natural gas demand. It is also too early to say whether officials in charge of nuclear policy are just paying lip service to the public’s safety concerns in the wake of the unfolding disaster.
Excerpt: Financial markets have already started to price in this new interest in gas. Since the disaster in Japan, uranium prices have dropped by 30 percent, while natural gas prices in Europe and the United States have risen by about 10 percent. Officials from several countries, including China, Germany, Finland and South Africa, said they would review their nuclear strategies.
read more... userfiles/file/Natural Gas Now Viewed as Safer Bet.pdf
Sluggish Economy Curtails Prospects for Building Nuclear Reactors
Published: October 10, 2010
WASHINGTON — Just a few years ago, the economic prognosis for new nuclear reactors looked bright. The prospect of growing electricity demand, probable caps on carbon-dioxide emissions and government loan guarantees prompted companies to tell the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that they wanted to build 28 new reactors.
The Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia, a state with traditional regulatory rules that virtually guarantee a return on investment.
The economic slump, which has driven down demand and the price of competing energy sources, and the failure of Congress to pass climate legislation has changed all that, at least for now.
Constellation Energy’s announcement on Saturday that it had reached an impasse with the federal government over the fee for a loan guarantee on a new reactor in Maryland is a sign of how much the landscape has been transformed.
read more... www.nytimes.com/2010/10/11/business/energy-environment/11power.html
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 9, 2010
Statement of Michael Mariotte, Executive Director
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
On Constellation Energy’s Announcement to End Participation in Calvert
Cliffs-3 Nuclear Reactor Project
Constellation Energy has made the right decision—for the wrong reasons--in ending its involvement with the proposed Calvert Cliffs-3 nuclear reactor project on the shores of
Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. According to a Constellation Energy press release U.S. Department of Energy to help build Calvert Cliffs-3 “is unreasonably burdensome and
would create unacceptable risks and costs for our company.” The
That these offers were considered “unreasonably burdensome” by Constellation Energy shows that the company was unwilling to assume the extraordinary financial risk this nuclear reactor posed—they wanted taxpayers to take all of the risk for this reactor.
Washington Post3 reports that the DOE offered this loan with a “credit subsidy” cost (essentially a down payment on the loan—similar to what a person would have to put down to obtain a mortgage) of only 12%, or $880 million. The Post also reports that the DOE offered even more generous terms—requiring a down payment of only about $300 million—if Constellation would guarantee the purchase of only 75% of the reactor’s power.
read more... userfiles/file/nirsstatementoncc310910.pdf
INDUSTRY-FUNDED MIT STUDY ON NUCLEAR FUTURE SUFFERS FROM UNSUPPORTABLE REACTOR CONSTRUCTION COST ESTIMATE
RECOMMENDATION FOR MORE HIGH-RISK TAXPAYER SUBSIDIES TO NUCLEAR INDUSTRY DOESN’T HOLD UP UNDER SCRUTINY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Michael Mariotte
September 16, 2010 301-270-6477
An MIT study titled “The Future of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle” released today in Washington uses an unsupportable reactor construction cost estimate, undercutting its recommendation that taxpayer subsidies for new nuclear reactors should be increased and accelerated.
“Congress would be ill-advised to follow the MIT recommendation,” said Michael Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), “since the study relies on a construction cost estimate for new reactors that is 50% or more below current cost estimates. Reliance on such an estimate would turn a high-risk taxpayer loan into an exorbitant-risk taxpayer bailout for wealthy nuclear power companies. Congress needs real numbers when it considers spending taxpayer money, not nuclear industry fantasies.”
The MIT recommendation, which calls for an acceleration and expansion of taxpayer subsidies for the first 7-10 new reactors, is based on an estimated construction cost of $4,000/kilowatt, or about $4 billion for a 1,000 Megawatt reactor.
“This is a remarkable flaw from what is touted as an expert study,” said Mariotte. “Even a cursory review of the literature finds that no new U.S. nuclear reactor proposal is coming in at $4,000/kw,” said Mariotte. “The real-world estimates are ranging from $6,000-9,000/kw--or 50% to more than 100% higher than MIT’s study asserts. Based on those kinds of estimates, it would make no sense for taxpayers to support the nuclear industry at all. New reactors won’t be economic, and the taxpayer loans would be far too risky.”
Mariotte cited several examples to refute MIT’s cost figures:
*Calvert Cliffs-3 is estimated to cost “about $10 billion” according to testimony from Constellation Energy CEO Mayo Shattuck before the Maryland Public Service Commission in March 2009. That’s more than $6,000/kw for that 1600 MW reactor.
*PPL estimates, on its website, that a reactor identical to Calvert Cliffs-3, would cost $13-15 billion, or about $8,000-9,000/kw (including financing costs). http://www.bellbend.com/faqs.htm
*A September 2008 estimate filed with the Florida Public Service Commission put the proposed Turkey Point reactors at $8,200/kw.
*The Southern Company’s Vogtle reactors in Georgia—slated to be the first recipients of taxpayer loans to support their construction—are currently estimated at about $6,200/kw.
Wall Street appears not to accept the MIT figures either:
*An October 2007 report from Moody’s Investor Service predicted costs of $5-6,000/kw. Less than a year later, in May 2008, Moody’s predicted costs “…potentially reaching over $7,000/kw.”
*Standard & Poor’s, quoting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in October 2008, predicted costs ranging from $5-8,000/kw.
“The MIT study correctly notes that ‘nuclear electricity costs are driven by high up-front capital costs,’ whereas natural gas and coal costs are more dependent on fuel costs,” said Mariotte, “then, it vastly underestimates nuclear capital costs and presents a grossly misleading picture of the costs of electricity to the consumer if nuclear reactors are built, as well as understating the risk of nuclear loans to the taxpayer.”
Mariotte noted that the study only compared nuclear costs to natural gas and coal, and not to alternatives like wind power, solar power, geothermal and energy efficiency technologies. Some of these alternatives, like wind and energy efficiency, are already much cheaper than nuclear power and solar is rapidly declining in price while increasing in its efficiency. Earlier this week, the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory released a report detailing the potential of offshore wind resources for the U.S., finding that offshore wind alone could generate more than four times the entire current electrical demand in the U.S. http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy10osti/45889.pdf
Mariotte pointed out that the MIT study acknowledges “generous financial support
from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and from Idaho National Laboratory,
the Nuclear Energy Institute, Areva, GEHitachi, Westinghouse, Energy Solutions, and Nuclear Assurance Corporation.”
“Areva, GEHitachi and Westinghouse are the three reactor vendors hoping for taxpayer money to pay for their products,” said Mariotte. “It is at least suspicious that the study would support their aims using a cost estimate that simply does not stand up to scrutiny.”
The nuclear "renaissance" stalls with pending collapse of Calvert Cliffs
Thu Aug 05, 2010 at 07:47:51 AM PDT
The nuclear "renaissance" stalls with pending collapse of Calvert Cliffs
Thu Aug 05, 2010
The flagship project to build a new nuclear power reactor in the United States—the one that provided the economic model for most new reactor proposals since—is in serious trouble and likely will collapse of its own weight before construction could even begin.
What this means for the much-hyped nuclear "renaissance" is clear: there will be no large-scale nuclear revival in the United States, and probably not in the rest of the world either, since the pressures on this project are international in scope, and affect just about every nation not named China.
read more... www.dailykos.com/story/2010/8/5/889695/-The-nuclear-renaissance-stalls-with-pending-collapse-of-Calvert-Cliffs
Former NRC commissioner says no to loan guarantees
By BOB AUDETTE / Reformer Staff
BRATTLEBORO -- A former commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants are too much of a risk to put on taxpayers. Peter Bradford, who lives in Peru and was an NRC commissioner from 1977 to 1982, said nuclear loan guarantees are "a very counterproductive approach to fighting climate change." "There are a number of other alternatives that lead to greater greenhouse gas reductions much sooner and much less expensively," he told the Reformer.
Wednesday May 5, 2010
Specifically, said Bradford, energy efficiencies that can be implemented immediately rather than the eight or 10 years it might take to get a license for and to build a new reactor.Loan guarantees "will undermine the fight against climate change by diverting money and attention from the resources that offer much larger atmospheric pollution reductions much sooner and less expensively," said Bradford in testimony before the U.S. House's Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee on April 20.
Funding of new nuclear power plants is best left to the capital markets, said Bradford, where debt or equity securities are traded, rather than looking to the federal government for support. And nuclear energy is a mature technology, which has been around for 50 years and should be able to stand on its own, he said." The nuclear industry's need for loan guarantees is a confession of the bankruptcy of the much-touted nuclear renaissance," Bradford told the subcommittee. Calling the renaissance the industry's "last stand," he said loan guarantees are nothing more than "an unlimited socialist bonanza."
President Barack Obama announced in February that the federal government will give $8.3 billion in loan guarantees for two new reactors in Georgia. Obama has proposed a total of $54 billion in loan guarantees to the nuclear industry.The loan guarantees were authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.Once a power plant is up and running, operators would be obligated to repay the loan guarantees to the banks that back the loan guarantees, including a fee to the federal government. However, if the borrower defaults, it will be up to the nation's taxpayers and utility customers to repay the banks. He said blaming the licensing process or citizen intervenors for the fact that a new nuclear power plant hasn't been built since 1990 is a specious argument. "It has everything to do with cost and risk," said Bradford. "Investors and lenders would not put their own money at risk by committing to competitive prices and delivery schedules for new reactors. New reactors can only be built if someone other than investors and lenders bear the risks. "The $8.3 billion offered to the Georgia reactors would be offset by a taxpayer risk exposure of almost $100 taken on by every family in America.
For every additional $10 billion, another $100 would be added to each family, he said. Of the 24 applications being reviewed by the NRC, said Bradford, 16 have experienced combinations of major cost overruns and major delays, including several outright suspensions. Without loan guarantees, he said, perhaps none of those reactors will be built. He maintained that even with loan guarantees, private financial investment will not be made."
The United States has little or no demand for wholesale electric power in new nuclear's forecasted 12 to 20 cent per kilowatt hour price range," he told the subcommittee. "If we make wise use of far less expensive energy efficiency, renewables and natural gas, we will not face electricity shortages for many years. This will be true even if we adopt policies that put a meaningful price on greenhouse gas reductions."
Bradford told the Reformer he is not for or against nuclear power. After all, he said, "My name is on the licenses for about 20 power plants." In addition to his term with the NRC, Bradford has also been the head of the New York and Maine public service commissions. He currently teaches energy policy and law at the Vermont Law School, has taught at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and is vice-chairman of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Nuclear Money Meltdown
President Obama has big plans for the future of commercial nuclear energy but the industry still has to deal with the waste it’s generated over the past 50 years. The administration has pulled the plug on the Yucca Mountain repository so, today, half a century of radioactive waste remains at power plants. That's costing taxpayers and ratepayers billions of dollars a year. Living on Earth's Bruce Gellerman investigates the flow of federal funds and nuclear waste in the second story in our series.
read and hear more... www.loe.org/shows/segments.htm
Nuclear projects face financial obstacles
By Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Hopes for a nuclear revival, fanned by fears of global warming and a changing political climate in Washington, are running into new obstacles over a key element -- money.
A new approach for easing the cost of new multibillion-dollar reactors, which can take years to complete, has provoked a backlash from big-business customers unwilling to go along.
Financing has always been one of the biggest obstacles to a renaissance of nuclear power. The plants are expensive, and construction tends to run late and over budget. The projected cost for a pair of proposed Georgia plants would be $14 billion; the Obama administration last month pledged to provide them with $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees. read more... www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/01/AR2010030103975.html
EXPERTS: NO GOOD CANDIDATES EXIST FOR CURRENT NUCLEAR REACTOR LOAN GUARANTEE BAILOUT FUNDS, MUCH LESS TRIPLED AMOUNT UNDER OBAMA BUDGET PLAN
“Ugly” Field of Four Bailout Candidates Present Huge Taxpayer Risks With Rising Cost Estimates, Delays, Flawed Reactor Designs, and Credit Downgrades; January One of Worst Months Ever for Industry.
WASHINGTON, D.C.//February 3, 2010//What if the federal government held a beauty contest for taxpayer-backed nuclear reactor loan guarantee bailouts ... and no reactor project “beauties” could be lined up for the runway?
According to experts from around the United States, that is precisely the situation the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) faces today with the extraordinarily weak crop of four reactor project candidates vying for loan-guarantee bailouts. The four proposed projects at the top of the list for $18.5 billion in federal bailout support are: the Southern Company’s Vogtle reactors in Georgia (widely believed to be the current front runner); the NRG reactor project in Texas; the VC Summer reactors in South Carolina; and the Calvert Cliffs reactor in Maryland.
The local experts are far from being alone in their negative assessment of the viability of the four bailout candidates. According to the independent Taxpayers for Common Sense, the four finalists all exhibit some combination of “rising cost estimates, delays related to reactor designs, and credit downgrades.” Making matters even worse: The four deeply flawed reactor projects are reputed to be the best of the options available, which means that there are no viable candidates in the pipeline to justify the tripling to $54 billion in nuclear reactor bailouts proposed under the White House budget released this week.
This is the latest bad news for the setback-plagued nuclear power industry, which is coming off of one of its worst months ever in January 2010, including: a major court room squabble between NRG and the City of San Antonio over a surprise $4 billion estimated cost increase for two proposed reactors in Texas; the rejection of $1 billion in rate increases by Florida regulators that has caused the two state utilities to announce a slowdown on their nuclear projects; and a growing scandal in Vermont over carcinogenic tritium leaks into the water supply that threaten to derail state approval of the extension of the Vermont Yankee reactor.
Peace Train: Stay away from nuclear power
Plants are targets for terror, can cause cancer
Posted: 12/17/2009 05:44:24 PM MST
A bipartisan coalition of U.S. senators put forward a "framework" for climate legislation this week that aims to dramatically increase off-shore oil drilling, ensure a "future for coal" and, above all, ramp up subsidies for the nuclear power industry.
It is Sens. John Kerry, Lindsey Graham and Joseph Lieberman pushing an industry-friendly package that protects the industries, not the earth, as the U.S. government continues its relentless effort to place obstacles in the way of real Copenhagen progress and heads instead toward even more profound environmental catastrophes.
Critics of nuclear power argue that a rush to nuclear power could lead to potentially trillions in U.S.-backed bailouts for a default-prone, financially troubled industry; draw away resources needed to promote genuine renewable energy resources and conservation and still pollute the air with carbon-based and other greenhouse gases through the entire production chain.
read more... www.coloradodaily.com/your-take/ci_14019222
Loan-Guarantee for Reactors Puts Taxpayers at Risk
Billions for Plant Vogtle Reactors Impossible to Justify in Terms of Rising Financial Risks, Reduced Demand for Power, Cheaper Renewables and Huge Potential of Energy Efficiency.
Atlanta, GA. – First it was insurance companies, then it was banks and that was followed by auto companies. Now, the federal government is putting U.S. taxpayers and utility customers at new risk under a controversial U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee program that is slated to award $18.5 billion, with Atlanta-based Southern Company predicted to be first on the list for program funds to build two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro, Georgia.
read more... www.cleanenergy.org/index.php
EXPERTS: THREE LATEST INDUSTRY SETBACKS FURTHER DIM NUCLEAR “RENAISSANCE,” TAXPAYER-BACKED LOAN GUARANTEES CAN’T FIX FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEMS WITH NEW REACTORS
Rejection by Private Financing, Skyrocketing Cost Projections, Falling Demand, and Faulty Reactor Designs Can’t Be Solved With U.S. Shifting to “Nuclear Socialism” to Bail Out Industry.
WASHINGTON, DC.///December 16, 2009///The beleaguered nuclear power industry is now the “public option” of U.S. energy, unable to move forward without a bailout in the form of taxpayer-backed loan guarantees involving a high risk of default.
Citing three recent negative developments for the nuclear power industry, that warning was issued today by a group of leading experts: Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School, and author of “The Economics of Nuclear Reactors: Renaissance or Relapse?” (2009); Stephen Thomas, professor of energy studies, University of Greenwich, London, and member of the editorial boards of Energy Policy, Utility Policy, Energy and Environment, and International Journal of Regulation and Governance; and Dr. Arjun Makhijani, president, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, and author of Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free:A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy (2007).
Cooper, Thomas and Makhijani held a news conference today amidst speculation that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) could announce its first loan guarantee for a new reactor before the end of 2009.
The expertshighlighted three recent setbacks for the industry: the recent $4 billion price hike for two proposed new reactors in Texas; a major new report from the financial world that concludes that only nuclear socialism (in the form of massive government financing) will allow the industry to expand; and major safety concerns cited by U.S. and European regulators about the two most popular proposed reactor designs in the United States.
Though $18.5 billion in loan guarantees are currently authorized and under discussion for new reactors, the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009 (S.1462), which has been passed out of the Energy Committee, authorizes unlimited loan guarantees. The recently unveiled Kerry-Graham-Lieberman "framework" for climate legislation also includes nuclear loan guarantees. The Alexander-Webb bill calling for 100 new nuclear reactors features $4 billion in new nuclear subsidies and an additional $10 billion that could leverage between $100 billion and $1 trillion in loan guarantees, depending on the subsidy cost. The nuclear power industry is on record calling for a miniscule 1 percent subsidy cost, which would result in the $1 trillion scenario.
Cooper, Thomas and Makhijani also stressed that the enthusiasm and optimism shared by some in Washington for nuclear power is not borne out by the facts on the ground.
Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School: “2009 was the seventh year of the so-called ‘Nuclear Renaissance,” but it looks a lot like the U.S. nuclear industry of the 1980s, a decade of no new orders, multiple delays and cancellations, hefty defaults, and emerging cheaper alternatives.Of 26 new nuclear reactor license applications submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission since 2007, 19 have been cancelled or delayed and every private sector project has suffered a downgrade by credit rating agencies. The reality is that capital markets will not finance new reactors because demand growth has slowed, reactors cost much more than available alternatives and they face too many technology, marketplace, and policy risks; so nuclear advocates have demanded a massive increase in direct federal subsidies to bail the industry out. What we are looking at is the prospect of ‘nuclear socialism’ that could only go farther if it involved outright state ownership of the industry.”
Stephen Thomas, professor of energy studies, University of Greenwich, London, said: “Reactor design and construction problems have vexed the industry for years. In Finland, the Olkiluoto plant was expected to take four years to build but after four years of construction in May 2009, it was still nearly four years from completion and about 75 percent over budget. The vendor and the customer were countersuing each other for compensation for these delays. In France, the country often held up by nuclear advocates as the example others should follow, its Flamanville EPR was more than 20 percent over budget after only a year of construction ... It is now clear that unless electricity consumers are required, as they were in the 1970s and 1980s, to bear all the economic risk – if costs went up, consumer electricity bills went up – nuclear power plants will only be built if governments grant major taxpayer subsidies, such as a guarantee on the electricity price nuclear power plants will receive and loan guarantees so that if the project goes wrong, taxpayers will ensure banks do not lose their money. Paradoxically, the worse the economic case gets for nuclear power, the more determined governments seem to be to force nuclear programmes through and the higher the level of taxpayer support is promised.”
Dr. Arjun Makhijani, president, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, said: “No one should be surprised to see the latest accounts of multi-billion-dollar projected cost increases for the South Texas Project. In fact, in March 2008, I estimated costs two to almost three times higher than those advertized by NRG, the project’s developer; and my estimates are the projected costs today, even if there are no delays and other problems. In the late 1970s and early 1980s when the industry consistently overstated likely demand and underestimated costs, which resulted in dozens of cancelled plants and huge debts. The difference today is that the government is willing to underwrite this risky nuclear adventure that is likely to come to no good and waste billions of taxpayer dollars.”
RECENT COST OVERRUNS IN TEXAS
Plans for two new nuclear reactors are in jeopardy in Texas due to a projected $4 billion cost overrun. As the Wall Street Journal reported: “Spooked by escalating costs, a city-owned utility in San Antonio is considering backing out of a venture with NRG Energy Inc. to build two next-generation nuclear reactors in Texas. CPS Energy is expected to make a final decision next month, after it gets an updated cost estimate from Toshiba Corp., which will oversee construction of the two reactors. The project is one of the furthest along in a new crop of nuclear proposals, but it is proving unpopular with city officials. The cost of the reactors, estimated at $10 billion to $12 billion before financing costs, is causing concern at a time when the utility is making big investments in renewable energy and pollution controls. Nuclear-reactor costs also look high right now against competing types of generation, such as gas-fired plants.”
The Journal continued: “The San Antonio city council was poised to approve a $400 million bond issuance in late October, but held back when new numbers came to light that indicated the nuclear project could cost more than expected. Like most municipal utilities, CPS has an appointed board that reports to elected city officials, whose approval is needed for rate changes or bond issuances ... City officials say the cost estimate from Toshiba for the two-reactor project ballooned to $12.1 billion last summer from a preliminary estimate of $8.6 billion in 2007, catching them off guard. Utility documents show its board was working with a figure of $10 billion. NRG says that it is confident it will be able to get the cost below $10 billion, before about $3 billion in financing costs are added. … Even if the final cost is about $10 billion, some city officials feel the project is too costly. ‘Based on the numbers I've seen, I don't think it's the right decision to proceed,’ said Councilman Reed Williams. He said it made economic sense for CPS to build gas-fired plants or buy electricity from others … CPS's skittishness about the cost of nuclear energy is understandable. The first two units at South Texas Project were supposed to cost less than $1 billion but ended up costing more than $5 billion. With that history seared into its memory, San Antonio officials have been sensitive to anything suggesting they could, again, get blindsided by escalating costs.” (See Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2009, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125997132402577475.html.)
A similar cost overrun situation is now unfolding in Georgia, at the Vogtle nuclear plant project, which is a finalist for the current round of DOE loan subsidies. Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) reports: “The proposed construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro could likely have cost overruns and possibly face delays, according to testimony released by the Georgia Public Service Commission. The group monitoring the progress of the new reactors is also being denied access to crucial information about the process, and Georgia Power is not revising economic evaluations based on a variety of factors that include a reduced demand for electricity and cheaper alternatives to nuclear energy, the document says.”
The GBP account continues: “The testimony, dated December 2, comes from PSC staffers and an independent monitor assigned to review Vogtle in advance of a hearing scheduled for Wednesday, the second in a semi-annual review of the construction timeline and budget of the reactors. The PSC reviews are required by a state law written after construction of Plant Vogtle's first two reactors in the 1980s skyrocketed from a projected cost of $660 million to $8.87 billion. ‘This project should be subject to a higher level of scrutiny due to higher financial risk to the ratepayer,’ says William Jacobs, an engineering consultant who also serves as the independent monitor for the Vogtle project.” (See Georgia Public Broadcasting, December 14, 2009, http://www.gpb.org/news/2009/12/14/psc-staffers-criticize-georgia-power.)
FINANCIAL MARKET REPORTS: THUMBS DOWN FOR NUCLEAR POWER
A new November 9, 2009 report by Citi Investment Research & Analysis, a division of Citigroup Global Markets Inc. is titled “New Nuclear – The Economics Say No.” The report identifies “The Three Corporate Killers”: “Three of the risks faced by developers — Construction, Power Price, and Operational — are so large and variable that individually they could each bring even the largest utility company to its knees financially. This makes new nuclear a unique investment proposition for utility companies. Government policy remains that the private sector takes full exposure to the three main risks; Construction, Power Price and Operational. Nowhere in the world have nuclear power stations been built on this basis. We see little if any prospect that new nuclear stations will be built in the UK by the private sector unless developers can lay off substantial elements of the three major risks. Financing guarantees, minimum power prices, and / or government-backed power off-take agreements may all be needed if stations are to be built …”
The Citi report continues: “Both Westinghouse and Areva claim to be able to construct a new third generation plant (AP-1000 and EPR, respectively) in 3 years from first pouring of concrete. However, evidence to date suggests this is not necessarily the case, as Olkiluoto and Flamanville projects have both suffered delays, while the first AP-1000 unit under construction, in SanMen China, is running significantly over its $1,000/KW construction cost target and is expected to be over $3,500/KW target on current estimates … We believe that if governments want new nuclear to be part of their energy policy, they will need to provide some support as either these plants will not be built or once they are, won’t be economically viable. (See the full 14-page Citi Investment report at
The Citi report echoes other current financial analyses focusing more narrowly on the U.S. On June 23, 2009, Moody’s Investor Services issued a report titled “New Nuclear Generation: Ratings Pressure Increasing.” The summary to the report included the following: “Moody's is considering “taking a more negative view for those issuers seeking to build new (U.S.) nuclear power plants … Rationale is premised on a material increase in business and operating risk … most utilities now seeking to build nuclear generation do not appear to be adjusting their financial policies, a credit negative. First federal approvals are at least two years away, and economic, political and policy equations could easily change before then …” See the Moody’s report summary at http://www.alacrastore.com/storecontent/moodys/PBC_117883.
“The Economics of Nuclear Reactors,” a report released on June 18, 2009 by Dr. Mark Cooper found that it would cost $1.9 trillion to $4.1 trillion more over the life of 100 new nuclear reactors than it would to generate the same electricity from a combination of more energy efficiency and renewables. The Cooper analysis of over three dozen cost estimates for proposed new nuclear reactors shows that the projected price tags for the plants have quadrupled since the start of the industry’s so-called “nuclear renaissance” at the beginning of this decade – a striking parallel to the eventually seven-fold increase in reactor costs estimates that doomed the “Great Bandwagon Market” of the 1960s and 1970s, when half of planned nuclear reactors had to be abandoned or cancelled due to massive cost overruns.
Utilities are finding nuclear energy too expensive
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
CPS Energy’s board calls for investigation into higher nuclear cost estimate
San Antonio Business Journal
CPS Energy’s board of trustees has called for an investigation into how and when management became aware of a substantially higher preliminary cost estimate from Toshiba Corp., the contractor chosen to build two new nuclear reactors at the South Texas Project in Matagorda County.
“In January, the board directed CPS Energy management to enter into an agreement to participate in new nuclear development at STP,” says CPS Energy Chairwoman Aurora Geis. “The much-higher Toshiba cost estimate is very troubling. My board colleagues and I are intensely interested in this matter, and thus we have requested a thorough examination as to what transpired.”
In response to the recent news about a $4 billion increase in the cost estimate, CPS Energy’s interim General Manager Steve Bartley says the estimate was preliminary and subject to ongoing scrutiny and challenge.
“In any event, a cost estimate that exceeds our preliminary total project cost of $13 billion is not acceptable and will result in CPS Energy exploring other options,” Bartley says. “Right now, the trust our community has placed in us for many years is being tested. Our forthrightness has been called into question. That’s why it’s important that the investigation be completed as expeditiously as possible and, based on the findings, that appropriate action be taken.” read more... sanantonio.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/stories/2009/11/02/daily22.html
Entergy CEO says chance for new nuclear plant dim
FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Entergy Corp <ETR.N> Chief Executive J. Wayne Leonard said on Tuesday that the company is unlikely to pursue construction of new nuclear plant in its Southeastern U.S. utility territory.
"It's not off the table, but the economics are really not supportive and not likely to be supportive in the near future," Leonard said from the sidelines of the Edison Electric Institute financial conference. read more... Reuters news service: By Eileen O'Grady www.reuters.com/article/email/idUSN0329520120091103
Nuclear Loan Guarantees: Another Taxpayer Bailout?
A Managerial Disaster
Originally conceived as producing electricity that would be “too cheap to meter,” the federal government created financial incentives to jump-sta
WHO FUNDS NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS?
The American taxpayer!
“Wall Street has already examined these questions and rejected nuclear power,” said Craig A. Severance, a certified public accountant who has been writing about the nuclear industry for 33 years. “Nuclear costs are pie in the sky and are not proven. There haven't been any built in the United States in over 30 years and they have a history of massive cost overruns.” read more... www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/59535217.html
Government Loan Guarantees pay for construction of plants
"Loan Guarantee Provisions in the 2007 Energy Bills: Does Nuclear Power Pose Significant Taxpayer Risk and Liability?" "The liability to taxpayers is potentially high, in part due to the costs and risks associated with constructing nuclear power plants." "The subsidy cost is like an insurance premium, and may be different for each project. Because this cost is estimated, it is possible for shortfalls to occur if the cost estimate is too low, resulting in a loss to the federal government." www.nirs.org/neconomics/nuclear_lgp_issue_brief2007.pdf
How much does a nuclear power plant cost?
The nuclear industry needs our government to finance its venture. Warren Buffet changed his mind and decided not to invest in nuclear. T Boone Pickens is investing in Wind turbines. So... who pays for nuclear energy? We do! The American taxpayer loans the money for construction of power plants, provides insurance, and long-term maintenance of all levels of radioactive waste. This is one of the best articles on costs: cost in terms of taxpayer dollars, and also raises the necessary issue of cost to our clean water sources!
San Francisco -- There was an interesting contrast between the energy technologies of the past and the future this week. First, the much-bruited "nuclear revival" once again showed its inability to meet the test of the marketplace.
The idea that one key to a brighter nuclear future was reprocessing weapons-grade plutonium into civilian reactor fuel led the federal government to commit $5 billion to construct a 60,000-square-foot facility at Savannah River, South Carolina. The project, now 15 percent complete, had one customer -- Duke Energy. But last week Duke canceled its contract to buy the reactor fuel -- potentially leaving the taxpayers with yet another $5 billion radioactive white elephant.
A much more robust future emerged on the solar front when the Department of Energy decided to make its first loan guarantee to Solyndra, a California company that makes an innovative rooftop solar technology that's more efficient and easier to install. Solyndra has been shipping and selling its product but needed capital (hard to come by in today's market) to double its manufacturing capacity in California. DOE granted Solyndra $535 million in loan guarantees that will cover 73 percent of the capital cost. read the rest of the article: sierraclub.typepad.com/carlpope/
WASHINGTON, March 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a statement of Ralph Nader on the 30th anniversary of Three Mile Island:
After thirty years without a firm order, the atomic power companies are pushing their radioactive, costly technology for a comeback on the backs of you, the taxpayers. Read more... news.yahoo.com/s/usnw/20090327/pl_usnw/statement_of_ralph_nader_on_the30th_anniversary_of_three_mile_island
Clean Up Costs for Uranium & Thorium Mills
US Radium Mill, NJ: $253 Million
Homestake Uranium Mill, NM: $25 Million (Unfinished)
Kerr-McGee Vanadium Mill, IL: $22-$119 Million
Monticello Uranium Mill, UT: $200 Million estimate for Mill, and another $13 Million for properties
St. Louis Airport/Hazlewood Uranium Mill & Disposal Sites, MO: $300-600 Million
Uravan U Mill, CO: $470 Million estimate
Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy, Budget Numbers
The following is an exerpt from the 2009 Budget for the Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy:
"The remaining $18.5 billion will be available through FY 2011 to support nuclear power facilities." http://www.cfo.doe.gov/budget/09budget/Content/Highlights/Highlight2009.pdf
Office of Nuclear Energy
•2006 Budget $ 535,660,000 •2007 Budget $ 632,698,000 •2008 Budget $874,649,000
•2009 Budget $ 1,419,000,000
Total for 4 years = $3,462,007,000 (Billion)
Arjun Makhijani: Nuclear is Not the Right Alternative Energy Source
"If you don't like coal, you have to take nuclear, goes the nuclear establishment's hopeful mantra. That's a false choice. Replacing coal with nuclear is risky, costly and unnecessary." http://www.dallasnews.com
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) speaks out on Nuclear Energy
Until building new nuclear power plants becomes economically viable without government subsidies, and the nuclear industry demonstrates it can further reduce the continuing security and environmental risks of nuclear power—including the misuse of nuclear materials for weapons and radioactive contamination from nuclear waste—expanding nuclear power is not a sound strategy for diversifying America’s energy portfolio and reducing global warming pollution. Read more: userfiles/file//NRDC paper on nuclear plants.pdf
The U.S. wind corridor is a huge swath of the Great Plains which runs, two states wide, from northern Texas to the Canadian border.A Department of Energy study in 2007 said that building out our wind capacity in that corridor could provide up to 20 percent of our power needs and, in addition to generating electricity would also generate 138,000 new jobs in the first year and up to 3.4 million jobs over a 10-year span.Those numbers don't take into account the additional energy and jobs which would be generated by building out our solar capacity in the corridor running east and west from western Texas to California.But all that, plus building a 21st century transmission grid, will take time and every day which goes by without reducing our oil imports is another day which sends nearly $650 million dollars out of the country.