Nuclear Costs

Estimates for new reactor construction costs continue to sky-rocket. Conservative estimates range between $6 and $12 billion per reactor but Standard & Poor's predicts a continued rise. The nuclear power industry is lobbying for heavy federal subsidization including unlimited loan guarantees but the Congressional Budget Office predicts the risk of default will be well over 50 percent, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. Beyond Nuclear opposes taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies for the nuclear energy industry.



Post-mortem on South Texas Project new reactor deal "meltdown"

"Operation:CPS--The mysterious death of a done nuclear deal" by Greg Harmon in the San Antonio CURRENT provides an extensive analysis of the unraveling of the business partnership between the City of San Antonio's municipal utility CPS Energy and NRG Energy/Toshiba. The proposal to build two new Toshiba-Westinghouse "Advanced Boiling Water Reactors" (ABWRs) at the Bay City, Texas site near the Gulf of Mexico suffered a major blow when it was revealed in October that CPS Energy's cost estimate for the project was $4-5 billion too low, something that Dr. Arjun Makhijani and other critics had predicted years earlier, as Harmon reports:

"With CPS on the hook for its 50 percent of the project until a buyer is found or a resolution is negotiated with NRG and NINA, to date there is one clear winner: the opposition — especially the opponents who questioned the project’s cost estimates from the beginning.

In the spring of 2007, NRG had just raised its estimate for the STP expansion from $6 billion to $8 billion to stay in line with Toshiba. But on the steps of City Hall, anti-nuclear forces issued what has turned out to be a prescient warning to the City Council: Costs were likely to cruise at least $4 billion higher— to at least $12 billion and possibly up to $17.5 billion, according to work performed by Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research.

“We want [the City Council] to take their time to look at the real numbers … and to get the right information,” said SEED’s Hadden at the time, who added that it would be the ratepayers of San Antonio who would be stuck with the consequences of bad or manipulated math.

A second analysis later suggested the final figure could even top $20 billion. This soothsaying ability allowed members of Energía Mía and Southwest Workers Union to sing a re-tuned “Deck the Halls,” called the “We Told Ya So Jingle,” outside CPS Energy’s downtown offices this past December: Doctor Arjun Makhijani/ Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha/ He predicted costs arising/ Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha/ City Council didn’t listen/ Ha ha, etc./ See Toshiba’s eyes a’glisten/ Ha ha, etc."

Revealing the deep-rooted flaws in the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Loan Guarantee Program for new atomic reactors, DOE had selected the South Texas Project Units 3 and 4 as  a top candidate for receiving taxpayer-backed loan guarantees before the CPS "meltdown" came to light.

Thanks to Eliza Brown, Clean Energy Advocate at the Sustainable Energy & Economic Development (SEED) Coalition in Austin, Texas for calling this article to our attention.


Southern Alliance for Clean Energy slams impending federal loan guarantee for new Vogtle atomic reactors in Georgia

SACE has clearly stated the irony of the nuclear power plant that did as much as any to kill the atomic bandwagon in the 1970s and 1980s -- a poster child for cost overruns -- now being poised to receive the first nuclear loan guarantee from the Energy Dept. This will put billions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer money at risk, and makes no sense whatsoever given the "rising financial risks, reduced demand for power, cheaper renewables and huge potential of energy efficiency."


New York Times reports DOE to issue first nuclear reactor loan guarantee "in the next few days"

While American taxpayers were distracted by the holidays, Congress and the Bush administration approved $18.5 billion in new reactor federal loan guarantees, and another $2.0 billion in uranium enrichment facility loan guarantees, on Christmas Eve, 2007. Now that the American people are again distracted by the holidays, the Obama administration's Dept. of Energy (DOE) appears poised to begin delivering the goods, at U.S. taxpayer risk and expense. A Christmas Eve New York Times article, "Loan Program May Stir Nuclear Industry," reports that DOE may begin dispersing the first new reactor federal loan guarantees in "the next few days." This, despite widespread design flaws endemic to proposed new reactors on DOE's loan guarantee short list. This includes the design for the Westinghouse-Toshiba Advanced Passive (AP) 1000, proposed to be built at Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia, widely rumored to be at the top of DOE's list for receiving a loan guarantee. In recent months, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission publicly announced that the AP1000 design is vulnerable to severe weather such as tornadoes and hurricanes, and other natural disasters such as earthquakes, damaging the reactor core due to a faulty "shield building."


DOE: Nuke loan guarantees still have "some distance to go"

"We're getting close, but we're not done," with new atomic reactor federal loan guarantees, Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman has told ClimateWire's Peter Behr. This despite Energy Secretary Steven Chu's earlier threat to issue such guarantees -- risking up to $18.5 billion in taxpayer-backed loans for new reactors and an additional $2.0 billion for new uranium enrichment facilities -- by the end of this year.


Harvey Wasserman celebrates "A quiet but HUGE no nukes triumph"

Harvey Wasserman's latest essay lists recent setbacks plaguing the nuclear "renaissance," and urges continued grassroots vigilance against taxpayer-backed loan guarantees for new atomic reactors. See numerous additional Wasserman anti-nuke blogs down the righthand side of his homepage, and visit the website Harvey edits.