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Rising costs afflicting US nuclear sector

Americas nuclear sector is taking a hit from the rising costs associated with construction and maintenance of its plants.

The Associated Press reports that nuclear power companies are experiencing licensing delay charges, soaring construction expenses and installation glitches that have driven up the costs of three plants in Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina, from hundreds of millions to as much as $2bn.

Competition from cheap gas and the fallout from Fukushima are also contributing to the sector’s difficulty.

Richard Lester, head of the department of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Inexpensive gas alone, told AP, “is casting a pretty long shadow over the prospects” for construction of new nuclear plants.

Examples from the AP’s review of pending projects include Plant Summer in South Carolina, which was expected to cost around $10.5bn, but has seen costs jump by $670m. In addition the reactor activation has been moved back to 2018 from 2016.

Meanwhile Plant Vogtle in eastern Georgia, initially estimated to cost $14m, has run into over $800m in extra charges related to licensing delays.

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