Westinghouse Bankruptcy and the Future of Nuclear Power

  • Thread starter gleem
  • Start date

gleem

Science Advisor
1,258
678
Scana Corp the owner of South Carolina Gas and Electric has decided to scrap the reactors partially completed due to the bankruptcy of Westinghouse.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/climate/nuclear-power-project-canceled-in-south-carolina.html

Included in the decision was the fact that electricity demand is not increasing and cheap natural gas. SC utilities still has coal fired plants which were to be closed on completion of this project.
 

russ_watters

Mentor
18,405
4,652
Scana Corp the owner of South Carolina Gas and Electric has decided to scrap the reactors partially completed due to the bankruptcy of Westinghouse.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/climate/nuclear-power-project-canceled-in-south-carolina.html

Included in the decision was the fact that electricity demand is not increasing and cheap natural gas. SC utilities still has coal fired plants which were to be closed on completion of this project.
Disappointing, but instructive economics lesson: it shows that in a well integrated market where there is one final price for a product, Product A (natural gas electricity) can undercut both Products B (nuclear electricity) and C (coal electricity) while having the even bigger impact of altering the balance (or rather, reversing the trend in the balance) between B and C. Counter-intuitively, it means in this case that more future natural gas power leads to more future coal power (less of a drop).
 

Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
18,491
1,611
Scana Corp the owner of South Carolina Gas and Electric has decided to scrap the reactors partially completed due to the bankruptcy of Westinghouse.
It is more the case that SCANA and Santee abandoned the plant construction over the delays and coast.
Originally scheduled to come online by 2018, the V.C. Summer nuclear project in South Carolina had been plagued by disputes with regulators and numerous construction problems. This year, utility officials estimated that the reactors would not begin generating electricity before 2021 and could cost as much as $25 billion — more than twice the initial $11.5 billion estimate.
Another article in the NY Times mentions some of the problems that caused increase in cost.

The projects, more than three years late and billions over budget, are what pushed Westinghouse — one of the last private companies building nuclear reactors — and its parent, Toshiba, to the brink of financial ruin, resulting in Toshiba’s chairman stepping down.
Under the old system, companies received construction permits based on incomplete plans and then applied for an operating license, often leading to rebuilding and lengthy delays. The idea for the new system was that companies would submit much more complete design plans for approval, and then receive their operating licenses as construction started. That way, as long as they built exactly what they said they would, the process could move more quickly.
I know that one concern some in the nuclear industry had was that the industry had lost the expertise in manufacturing large components and larger projects.
Because nuclear construction had been dormant for so long, American companies lacked the equipment and expertise needed to make some of the biggest components, like the 300-ton reactor vessels. Instead, they were manufactured overseas, adding to expense and delays.

One reactor vessel, headed for Georgia Power’s Vogtle plant from the Port of Savannah, almost slipped off a specialized rail car. That led to a weekslong delay before a second attempt was made to deliver it.

And, in a separate snafu, while working on the plant’s basement contractors installed 1,200 tons of steel reinforcing bar in a way that differed from the approved design. That triggered a seven-and-a-half month delay to get a license amendment.
I certainly remember when the delivery of Vogtle's RPV went awry.

As far as I know, the regulatory issues stem from folks not doing the work according to plans, or changes made somewhere that conflict with the approved design basis. It takes time and money to resolve those issues, and they are cumulative.

I cited two articles:
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/climate/nuclear-power-project-canceled-in-south-carolina.html
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/18/business/energy-environment/nuclear-power-westinghouse-toshiba.html

While the first article mentions Summer is 40% complete, I read elsewhere that the plant or perhaps lead unit is 64% complete.

The liabilities for Westinghouse and Toshiba are astounding, and the cost overruns (the cost of finishing the project is another $14 billion) takes the plant from $11.5 billion to an estimated $25 billion. In the face of a decrease in the demand for electricity and relatively inexpensive natural gas, SCANA and Santee feel compelled to abandon the project.
 

mheslep

Gold Member
253
727
I've not seen any satisfactory explanation for the amount of the cost increase reported for Summer, from $11 to $25B, for a 40% complete plant?
 

mathman

Science Advisor
7,614
369
Two projects using AP1000 (in South Carolina) were just cancelled.
 

Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
18,491
1,611
I've not seen any satisfactory explanation for the amount of the cost increase reported for Summer, from $11 to $25B, for a 40% complete plant?
SCE&G and Santee apparently did a study. They've been dealing with delays and cost increases for years now, and perhaps the coup de grace is the Westinghouse bankruptcy.



I posted about a Power Magazine article on the Summer NPP in the Nuclear Power Thread. According to the Power Magazine article, the Summer project is 64% complete based on a statement from SCE&G.
http://www.powermag.com/vc-summer-project-64-complete-sceg-says/

http://www.powermag.com/scana-santee-cooper-abandon-v-c-summer-ap1000-units-citing-high-costs/
SCANA Corp. and Santee Cooper have ceased construction of Units 2 and 3 at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in South Carolina.

The project owners said the decision, prompted by analysis of detailed schedule and cost data, would save customers nearly $7 billion. The project, which was about 64% complete, has been in limbo since key contractor Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy in March.
The escalating costs have been in the news for a while now.
http://www.northaugustastar.com/news/utilities-to-cover-nuclear-plant-costs-v-c-summer-vogtle/article_05f1095c-160e-11e7-a2ea-2babdc28c02e.html

Part of the problem of estimating the cost will involve assumptions about idle workers and equipment and manhours needed to complete tasks.

Just prior to the beginning of construction, there was a concern that the available workforce had no prior experience in constructing nuclear power plants which have to be done under tighter quality control than non-nuclear plants. That makes changing the design costly, as well as remediating mistakes.

It was a costly mistake for Westinghouse to try to absorb CBI.
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-toshiba-accounting-westinghouse-cbi-idUSKBN17Z2AF
2016 - http://investors.cbi.com/news/press-release-details/2016/CBI-Completes-Sale-of-Nuclear-Construction-Business-to-Westinghouse/default.aspx
2017 - http://investors.cbi.com/news/press-release-details/2017/Court-Vindicates-CBIs-Position-in-Westinghouse-Lawsuit/default.aspx
 

etudiant

Gold Member
1,150
75
I suspect there may be a domino effect, as the Vogtle plants are now the last two under construction in the US. That means every nuclear construction supervisor and regulator will have only Vogtle to focus on.
Ideally, this might mean the best and most experienced would now try 100% to help this project succeed. Realistically the more likely outcome is 'too many cooks'.
Nuclear may have a rebirth in this country, but it will need a very different form. We don't have the management or regulatory competency required to build big plants anymore. So the future if any is smaller units, probably centrally produced. Until that gets going, another long hiatus such as post TMI awaits us, at least imho.
 

Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
18,491
1,611
The situation with Westinghouse and the new AP1000 builds makes me wonder, if we can build nuclear powered aircraft carriers and submarines, why can't we be successful at building NPPs?
 

russ_watters

Mentor
18,405
4,652
The situation with Westinghouse and the new AP1000 builds makes me wonder, if we can build nuclear powered aircraft carriers and submarines, why can't we be successful at building NPPs?
It's because ships are built in dedicated, purpose-built, high-tech factories and nuclear power plants are just buildings -- and any idiot can pour concrete or weld a pipe or lay a beam where a blueprint says to.....except that they can't. If a contractor screws up on building an apartment building, the engineer complains and makes him fix it if it is important or just accepts it and docks their fee if it isn't, and that's the end of it. If a contractor screws up building a nuclear plant, it is quite literally a federal case. In the non-nuclear world, nobody really cares about bad concrete pours until after it fails and a panel falls out of the ceiling of your $30 billion tunnel in Boston and kills a family driving under it.
 

gleem

Science Advisor
1,258
678
and any idiot can pour concrete or weld a pipe or lay a beam where a blueprint says to.....except that they can't.
or don't. Back in the beginning of NP in the 60's I read that a new plant under construction had to be stopped because the steel reinforcing rods where not be laid according to the schedule. The contractor unfamiliar with this new type of construction thought that it was way over designed at cut back on the steel.

In the case of the Scana plant they too did not follow the plans delaying the construction. What is it that they can't follow directions.
 

mheslep

Gold Member
253
727
The situation with Westinghouse and the new AP1000 builds makes me wonder, if we can build nuclear powered aircraft carriers and submarines, why can't we be successful at building NPPs?
US NRC. The NRC does not, can not, impose new requirements on US naval nuclear vessels after construction begins. Imagine 'aircraft impact' containment requirements imposed naval vessels.
 

mheslep

Gold Member
253
727
It's because ships are built in dedicated, purpose-built, high-tech factories and nuclear power plants are just buildings -- and any idiot can pour concrete or weld a pipe or lay a beam where a blueprint says to.....except that they can't.
Which does not explain how China, S. Korea builds large reactors in building mode in five to seven years for a fraction of the cost of new US reactors, or how the US itself built them cheaply 40 years ago. Differences in labor costs does not explain all.
 
Last edited:

gleem

Science Advisor
1,258
678
US NRC. The NRC does not, can not, impose new requirements on US naval nuclear vessels after construction begins. Imagine 'aircraft impact' containment requirements imposed naval vessels.
It's my understanding that the NRC has no jurisdiction over government controlled reactors or nuclear material.
 

mheslep

Gold Member
253
727
except that they can't....
One such problem is loss of skills, like the near miss Astro reported. Another occurred with the forging of the big RPV. Apparently, in big pieces the carbon concentration goes wrong on one end of the piece. The solution, going back to cannon age, was to lop off the end. This time, they forgot.
 

russ_watters

Mentor
18,405
4,652
Which does not explain how China, S. Korea builds large reactors in building mode in five to seven years for a fraction of the cost of new US reactors, or how the US itself built them cheaply 40 years ago. Differences in labor costs does not explain all.
My response would probably be too political, though...
One such problem is loss of skills...
Yes, I think that is a lot of it.
 

Want to reply to this thread?

"Westinghouse Bankruptcy and the Future of Nuclear Power" You must log in or register to reply here.

Physics Forums Values

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving
Top