October 3, 2017 Read More →

On the Blogs: U.S. Energy Secretary Perry Commits Taxpayers to a Failing Nuclear Project in Georgia

ThinkProgress.org:

On Friday, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry authorized up to $3.7 billion in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees to finish building the last remaining new nuclear plant under construction in this country.

This loan, to the Southern Company’s Vogtle plant in Georgia, is on top of $8.3 billion in previous federal loan guarantees for the troubled $25-billion nuclear plant. That means if — or, rather, when — the project goes belly up, U.S. taxpayers will have to bail out Southern Company and its partners with a record-breaking $12 billion.

“When” might be more likely. Nuclear power has become so uneconomic that half of all existing power plants are “bleeding cash” — and even the profitable ones have the narrowest of positive operating margins, according to a recent Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) analysis.

The V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in South Carolina, September 2016. Construction was recently suspended. CREDIT: AP/Chuck Burton.

Since so many existing plants are money losers, it’s no shock that new nuclear plants have priced themselves out of the market for new power generation entirely.

New nukes make so little economic sense that the Vogtle project is both “the first new nuclear power plant to be licensed and begin construction in the United States in more than three decades,” as the Department of Energy (DOE) news release explains, and “the last nuclear plant under construction in the U.S.” as Bloomberg reported.

Back in March, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution called the project “a financial quagmire.” The Westinghouse plants, originally priced at $14 billion, were already $3.6 billion over budget and almost four years behind schedule. Recently, Southern Company released new estimates that put the total project cost at $25 billion.

No wonder that Westinghouse itself filed for bankruptcy back in March.

Globally, the nuclear industry is struggling. As the New York Times reported, another well-known nuclear developer, General Electric “has scaled back its nuclear operations, expressing doubt about their economic viability,” whereas the French builder Areva “is mired in losses.” In August, the Financial Times wrote, “It sometimes seems like U.S. and European nuclear companies are in competition to see which can heap greater embarrassment on their industry.”

Yet in the DOE press release Friday, Perry said, “I believe the future of nuclear energy in the United States is bright.”

More: Perry just made taxpayers invest in a $25-billion nuclear ‘financial quagmire’

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