18 July 2015

BusinessDayLive (South Africa): Years of delay dog expensive nuclear reactors, says report

Years of delay dog expensive nuclear reactors, says report


by Carol Paton, 16 July 2015, 05:48

NUCLEAR energy plants world-wide take much longer to build than planned and typically face large cost overruns, says the World Nuclear Industry Status Report for 2015 launched on Wednesday.

Of the 62 reactors under construction in the world, three-quarters are delayed, often by years, and five units are listed as being under construction for more than 30 years.

“There has been a clear global trend towards increasing construction times, with national building programmes faster in the early years of nuclear power,” the report states.

Compiled by independent researchers and funded by foundations associated with green political parties, the report highlights the financial risk involved in the construction of the new generation of nuclear power reactors.

Its release in London follows comments by Department of Energy official Zizamele Mbambo on Wednesday insisting that SA’s envisaged nuclear programme was “fundable” and affordable. He would not share details of the financial modelling done by his department or the actual cost projections.

The report shows nuclear energy in the world is in decline, especially in western Europe, the US and Japan, while renewable energy gains more ground annually.

Of the 62 reactors under construction in the world, half are in China, and four-fifths in Asia and eastern Europe.

While most constructors assume a five-year construction period, the average is 7.6 years. At least three-quarters of building sites are delayed with the remainder recently begun or not started, making it difficult to assess whether they will meet construction deadlines.

The five reactors under construction for 30 years or more include one in the US, two in Slovakia and one in the Ukraine. Two units in India have been under construction for more than 13 and 11 years respectively and the Finnish reactor at Olkiluoto is near its tenth anniversary.

Construction costs typically rise significantly once construction gets going. In both the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Belarus, which were the only two countries to commence new programmes last year, costs have soared. When the contracting for the Korean-built UAE plant was done in 2009, the estimated costs for four reactors were put at $20bn. But, claims the report, the expected costs with financing are now at $32bn with some putting the cost at $40bn.

In the case of Belarus, the 2012 contract price for two reactors was $10bn. By this year, government officials had changed the original cost to $13bn. Taken with the devaluation of the rouble since 2013, Belarus has been facing a price tag of $22.9bn.