Two Nuclear Power Reactors in South Carolina Abandoned Before Construction Is Completed

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Image of the VC Summer nuclear power reactors under construction in 2015.
GreenWorld, “Some Unanswered Questions,” safeenergy.org (accessed Aug. 4, 2017)

On Monday July 31, the South Carolina Electric & Gas Company announced that it was abandoning construction on two new nuclear power reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Jenkinsville, SC due to cost overruns and delays in construction.

The two nuclear reactors were 40% complete, and $9 billion dollars had already been spent on their construction.

The two reactors were originally scheduled to come online in 2018, however, due to regulatory disputes and construction problems, the utility announced early in 2017 that the reactors would not begin producing electricity before 2021. The utility also announced that completing construction could cost up to $25 billion, over twice the original estimate of $11.5 billion.

Had the reactors been completed, they would have been among the first new nuclear power plants in the Unite States to be built since 1978. There are currently two new nuclear power reactors still under construction in the state of Georgia that are also suffering from large cost overruns.

According to nuclear economist Dr. Mark Cooper, the abandonment of the two South Carolina nuclear power reactors sends a simple message: “nuclear power is uneconomic… The capital cost of renewables is between one-eighth and one quarter the cost of VC Summer. Even adjusted for load factors, nuclear power is two to three times more costly then [sic] the alternatives.”

However, according to Jeremy Carl, research fellow at the Hoover Institution, “nuclear still provides one-fifth of all electricity in the U.S. and creates far more emission-free energy than any other technology, including the solar and wind that so enrapture environmentalists… the South Carolina and Georgia debacles were not the natural result of nuclear technology. As studies have shown, it is not inevitable that nuclear-power-plant construction costs must rise.”


Sources:

Seanna Adcox, “Billions Down the Drain as New Nuclear Plants Scrapped,” abcnews.go.com, July 31, 2017

Jeremy Carl, “Keeping the Lights on at America’s Nuclear Power Plants,” nationalreview.com, Aug. 3, 2017

Brad Plumer, “US Nuclear Comeback Stalls as Two Reactors Are Abandoned,” nytimes.com, July 31, 2017

US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), “NRC Concludes Hearing on Vogtle New Reactors, First-Ever Combined Licenses to Be Issued,” www.nrc.gov, Feb. 9, 2012

Vermont Business Magazine, “Vermont Law School’s Cooper on Demise of VC Summer: Nuclear Power Is Uneconomic,” vermontbiz.com, Aug. 4, 2017