Skip to main content

MSNBC Story on the Economics of New Nuclear Build

After four days of looking at the nuclear energy industry through the prism of Washington lobbying, MSNBC's last piece of reporting on the nuclear energy industry turns to the challenge of financing new nuclear build. It's easily the best piece in the entire series:
The economics of building nuclear power plants began to short-circuit in the 1970s, after a building boom that lasted more than a decade. Part of the problem was the widespread use of so-called “cost-plus” contracts, in which the companies building plants were not held to a fixed price, according to Dan Keuter, head of nuclear business development for Entergy, which has applied for a site permit to build a new nuclear unit.

“You had multiple subcontractors working on cost plus basis,” he said. “So they were actually motivated not to get it done early. ... And (they) were definitely not motivated to do it within budget because the more they spent, the more they got.

Most plants were designed one at a time from the ground up; in some cases, engineers and designers were still working on plans as construction was under way, said Keuter. Changing regulatory requirements created further delays.

As a result, construction schedules began to double and triple, costs skyrocketed and projects in the pipeline were canceled. For those projects that continued, rising carrying costs as interest rates hit double-digits added to already huge cost overruns. By the end of the decade, the nuclear power industry was buried under a pile of debt.
All very true, though MSNBC's John Schoen does a very good job of updating just what's changed since the last major build cycle in the U.S. For more hard data on finanical issues in the nuclear energy industry, visit NEI's Financial Center on our Web site. And again, I suggest anyone wanting to examine the challenges facing the industry to review the presentation our CEO Skip Bowman gave to the National Academy of Engineering last Fall.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , ,


Popular posts from this blog

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

Seeing the Light on Nuclear Energy

If you think that there is plenty of electricity, that the air is clean enough and that nuclear power is a just one among many options for meeting human needs, then you are probably over-focused on the United States or Western Europe. Even then, you’d be wrong.

That’s the idea at the heart of a new book, “Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century,” by Scott L. Montgomery, a geoscientist and energy expert, and Thomas Graham Jr., a retired ambassador and arms control expert.

Billions of people live in energy poverty, they write, and even those who don’t, those who live in places where there is always an electric outlet or a light switch handy, we need to unmake the last 200 years of energy history, and move to non-carbon sources. Energy is integral to our lives but the authors cite a World Health Organization estimate that more than 6.5 million people die each year from air pollution.  In addition, they say, the global climate is heading for ruinous instability. E…