Is the American nuclear industry on its last legs?

All across the country right now, reactor projects are failing, and existing power plants are sinking deeper and deeper into the red.

All of a sudden, the so-called "energy of the future" is starting to look an awful lot like a relic.

What's going on?

So the big news in the nuclear world right now is that two utility companies in South Carolina - South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper - recently halted construction on a pair of advanced reactor projects.

These reactors were supposed to be the future of the nuclear industry - what happened?

The American nuclear industry as a whole is actually in dire straights right now.

A recent Bloomberg investigation found that that more than half of nuclear reactors are losing money, around $2.9 billion ever year.

Should we be expecting a massive bailout of the nuclear industry?

If there is a bailout of the nuclear industry, it will likely be framed as a necessary move to protect a "renewable" form of energy.

But is nuclear energy really renewable?

Comments's picture
randolphgarriso... 6 years 41 weeks ago

Nuclear energy is a lot of things, but renewable is not one of them.The only real reason for nuclear reactors is to process nuclear material to be used in nuclear weapons. With our vast reduction of nuclear weapons production the nuclear energy industry is left holding the waste and the bills.

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 6 years 41 weeks ago

If the industry's bust then, as usual, taxpayer will wind up with the bills and likely for waste disposal / storage... whatever?!?!?

Sideburn8's picture
Sideburn8 6 years 41 weeks ago

. The older generation is deathly afraid of change on anything.

jibaro01's picture
jibaro01 6 years 41 weeks ago

I know that this hogwash directed at milking the tax payers pockets is more interesting to you than other things that might be more important but I must mention this to you.

Have you noticed that MSN eliminated its comment section? Have you noticed that either hackers are gainning the ability to block people saying things that they don't want to hear, or the sites are allowing it?

Those are things designed to quiet the voices of people who see things differently from what the people who control the government want us to see them.

The purpose of all this is to keep us fighting over petty stuff. While we fight each other and are preocupied with the color of people's skin, their political view, their sex, their sexual preferences and so on, nothing can really be done to resolve those problems.

We are like a bunch of cats in a bag fighting each other. If those cats realized that they could use their nails to rip the bag apart, we could get free to do what has to be done to get the country working properly again.

If we were like ants, we would get together to lift those problems that appear to be huge and we would get them out of the way but we are not. If ants were like us, they would die in their ant hills because the food would never make it into the nest. The ants would be out there trying to push the food in all kinds of directions but not in the direction of the nest.

ErinRose's picture
ErinRose 6 years 41 weeks ago

The government needs to stop tagging the public sector to bolster up private industry and their profit taking. This time around, I don't know that the public is going to stand for another private sector bailout. The private sector never comes to our rescue but they expect us to constantly be bailing them out. I say, let the whole nuclear energy industry go under. We should have been investing in alternate energy like solar all along. Fukushima should have taught us something about nuclear energy. Insanity is repeating the same failed path expecting different results. Nuclear energy is expensive and it is dangerous. And I think the public has had it with the private sector being bloodsuckers. I'd like to see the day when we use our homes to collect solar energy and sell it back to the energy companies to reduce our out-of-pocket costs. We don't need nuclear energy but we do need a clean source of low impact energy and solar is the way to go.

Legend 6 years 41 weeks ago

Prior to Fukushima there was a Nuclear Renaissance planned where about 20 reactors were going to be built in the USA. After Fukushima most were cancelled or delayed, except for 2 in GA and 2 in SC. Duke was still fairly active on 2 in NC that never broke ground. Westinghouse designed all 4 reactors. At the time of decision they said that with Computerized design and scheduling it would be easy to build them on schedule and within budget. The first generation of reactors did not have this. Westinghouse totally blew the projects. They were doing massive design changes during construction. Westinghouse had partnered with Shaw Group to build these plants. Shaw Group was bought by CB&I who had no interest in Nuclear. Westinghouse ended up having to buy the group working on the plants. Construction was a mess with virtually no scheduling. Westinghouse (who is owned by Toshiba) was in the red for Billions of dollars. So much that it was taking down Toshiba, a huge conglomerate. Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy. Recently the plants in SC were cancelled and the customers are stuck with the billions spent to date and nothing in return. The 2 in GA are still under construction with an estimate of $25 billion to complete for 2 1000 MW power plants. I predict that they will eventually be cancelled also. 2 Reactors in NC that never broke ground were also recently cancelled after 1/2 billion was spent. What needs to be investigated is the utility managers are walking away with millions. Such large projects leave a lot to be skimmed off of the top.

At the existing plants, they have become bloated with expensive staff. Plants that originally had staffs of 100 to 200 have staffs of a 1000. Empire builders are part of the problem. Paperwork and security is the other part. When they operate they are ok. Maintenance is very expensive. The reactors are getting old and cracking. They have all run out of room to store fuel indoors so they are storing fuel in Casks outside on concrete pads. These casks have a storage license of 40 years. Then something will have to be done with them. They have not figured out a permanent storage location in the 50 years of commercial nuclear operation. Plants that are being shut down are scheduling decommissioning for 40 years out. This leaves the next generation with a big (BIG) mess. They will not want it and did not profit from it. Funds set aside for decommissioning will probably be pilfered in that 40 year time.

All in all it makes renewables look better. Energy storage is the new frontier in electrical power. Solar with battery storage for night use makes a lot more sense and it is happening rapidly. Kauai recently went 100% solar with battery backup. Tucson Electric is heading that direction.

Legend 6 years 41 weeks ago

We have spent trillions of dollar on cancelled nuclear power plants. Fool me once.....

Many were 90% or more complete.

radster63's picture
radster63 6 years 40 weeks ago

As usual, I see so many illinformed individuals voicing incorrect opinions about nuclear power. France gets about 80% of it's power from nuke plants and england has committed to being total nuclear by 2025, having shut down many of their fossil fuel plans as they phase them out. The government and utility companies have not do a good job educationing the public about nuclear power and why it will be the non-polluting source of you electricity in the future. Keep in mind our US Navy has all of it's aircraft carriers and submarine nuclear powered, making our Naval force the envy of the world. If the Navy had the same regressive approach, they would be buillding sailing ships instead. Get you head out of the sand and educate yourself.

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