New nuclear reactor designs and concepts are expensive, challenging – New GAO report

TVA's Clinch River Site - Proposed for SMRs

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new technology assessment report yesterday, “Nuclear Reactors: Status and challenges in development and deployment of new commercial concepts.” But the results of the study were anything but new. The GAO’s findings confirmed that new nuclear reactor technologies, such as small modular reactors (SMRs), and other new reactor design concepts are extremely expensive and face numerous, significant challenges. We haven’t forgotten that Taxpayers for Common Sense claimed SMRs were a taxpayer boondoggle and in 2013 awarded “The Golden Fleece” to the Department of Energy for federal spending on them.

To us the GAO’s findings sound eerily familiar to what has been experienced by the five nuclear reactor projects under construction here in the U.S., which are all in the Southeast. TVA’s Watts Bar 2 in Tennessee has been under construction for well over 30 years and has busted it’s budget more than once. And the four new Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 reactors being built (two each) at Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle in Georgia and SCANA’s V.C. Summer in South Carolina are at least 39-months delayed and billions of dollars over budget, with many challenges remaining.

Given the serious concerns about the need to reduce carbon emissions to mitigate global climate change, the GAO was requested to conduct this study by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and Committee on Appropriations. Let’s hope that regulators, utilities, government agencies and elected officials actually read the report and consequently take a step back from their ill-advised nuclear aspirations and nuclear cheerleading, such as TVA’s possible pursuit of SMRs at their Clinch River Site in Tennessee, a site where they pursued and then abandoned another questionable nuclear project — breeder reactors.

No one needs to experience, nor can afford, yet another nuclear boondoggle.

Find all the information from the GAO’s analysis, including a podcast, here.

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Thanks for your critical comments. It is worth noting that the states which are building new reactors have CWIP – Construction Work In Progress. This means that they can start billing customers for reactors while they are under construction a scheme which has cost Florida rate payers literally billions in abandoned nuclear projects. It is corporate welfare, not quite at the same scale as the Price Anderson act, which moves the lions share of nuclear liability onto tax payers (utilities only need cover the first $10 billion of an accident, Fukushima will be over US$350 billion and 100K people will still never be able to return home and will get no benefits soon).

Westinghouse – The largest US manufacturer of reactors has pulled out of the SMT market claiming “there are no customers” If Westinghouse can’t find them, then this adventure is clearly a boondoogle.

Comment by Paxus Calta on July 30, 2015 2:06 am

Thank you for your comments Paxus. Yes, Georgia and South Carolina each have some form of CWIP-legislation that is unfairly shifting the burden to today’s utility bill payers for certain costs associated with building the new reactors — as does Florida, which has exemplified what a boondoggle that type of anti-consumer state legislation can be given several reactor projects have been cancelled and/or suspended but ratepayers are stuck with billions in costs for not one kilowatt of electricity produced.

Comment by Sara Barczak on July 30, 2015 9:17 am

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