20 September 2014

FierceEnergy (USA): Construction delays key to shrinking nuclear global power production

Construction delays key to shrinking nuclear global power production

FierceEnergy, September 19, 2014 | By Barbara Vergetis Lundin

Experts are reporting that 75 percent of nuclear reactors under construction worldwide are facing delays, which, in turn, make them much more costly. According to the “World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2014,” other countries are in no better position than the United States when it comes to delivering nuclear reactor projects on time and on budget.

In fact, the report reveals that through September 15, 2014, at least three out of four (49 of 66) reactors under construction around the world were running behind schedule, including delay announcements in recent weeks in the U.S.(two reactors - Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Station Unit 2 and Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Station Unit 3), South Korea (two reactors - Shin-Hanul-2 and Shin-Wolsong-2) and Finland (Olkiluoto-3, which is likely to be a decade behind schedule upon delivery).

Little is known about the progress on four nuclear reactors in India, according to the report, and the other reactor projects have been under way for less than two years, which makes it difficult to identify delays without full access to information.

n part as a result of construction cost overruns, long-delayed reactor projects globally are billions of dollars over budget, including Finland’s Olkiluoto-3 and France’s Flamanville-3, both running about $7 billion over their initial budgets and now projected to cost more than $11 billion.

“Delays in construction — some of them multiyear — are a key factor behind rising costs and the clear trend of the shrinking share of nuclear energy in the world’s power production, which declined steadily from a historic peak of 17.6 percent in 1996 to 10.8 percent in 2013,” said Mycle Schneider, Paris-based international energy and nuclear policy consultant lead author of the report.

This is likely to continue as construction delays persist among the relatively small number of new reactor projects around the globe. However, this scenario is nothing new.

The U.S. nuclear power industry, in particular, has been plagued by construction delays and cost overruns for the last 40 years. But because nuclear power is already more expensive than other sources of electricity generation and ways of fighting climate change, these delays and overruns further undermine nuclear power’s claim that special nuclear subsidies are an essential part of the world’s climate change strategy.

The report reveals some surprising facts on the status of nuclear reactor projects around the world.

For example, China, which is often cited in the U.S. as an example of where nuclear power is being delivered on time and inexpensively, is actually experiencing construction delays at 20 of its 27 reactor projects. Russia is seeing delays at nine out of nine reactor projects. India is reporting delays at two out of six reactor projects, but little information is available about the status of the other four. South Korea is seeing delays at four out of five reactor projects. The United States is reporting delays at all five new reactor projects now under construction. Further, eight reactors throughout the world have been listed as “under construction” for more than 20 years.