August 7, 2017 Read More →

On the Blogs: Growing Array of Market Forces Slow U.S. Nuclear Energy Expansion

Washington Post:

The two still-to-be-built reactors in Georgia are alone among new nuclear projects under construction in the United States.

On Monday, a pair of utilities, private SCANA and state-owned Santee Cooper, canceled construction on a pair of nuclear reactors in South Carolina after years of mounting building costs, stagnant electricity demand and competition from natural gas and renewables.

Today, 60 percent of the carbon-neutral energy produced in the United States comes from the nation’s existing 99 nuclear power plants. The failure to complete the partially finished South Carolina reactors dims hope that nuclear power can play a greater role in further decarbonizing electricity generation in the United States — at least anytime soon.

Many of the same economic forces that factored in the South Carolina decision weigh on the prospects of the Vogtle plant and its two planned nuclear reactors.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry has spoken glowingly of nuclear energy as a part of the Trump administration’s official “all-of-the-above” energy strategy. But President Trump himself spends significantly more time talking about coal, while the White House’s proposed budget, if passed, would drastically reduce funding for the department’s nuclear-energy office and eliminate the loan program altogether.

The future of nuclear energy likely lies with companies pursuing new technologies, such as small modular reactors. Unlike the Vogtle plant and its other larger cousins, modular reactors — like those being developed by a company called NuScale in rural Idaho with Energy Department support — are designed to avoid cost overruns by being built in factories.

More: The Energy 202: The United States is running out of nuclear options

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