Regardless of one’s views of the social values of nuclear power — compelling cases can be made all around — as a business proposition nuclear stinks. The latest evidence comes from the giant Japanese conglomerate Toshiba, which saw a third of its market value vanish in two days of trading (20% in one day, a free-fall stopped only by a limit to trading losses imposed by the Japanese stock market). Credit rating agencies promptly downgraded the company’s debt. Toshiba’s stock crash was a result of billions in reported losses from its Westinghouse Electric subsidiary and Westinghouse’s ruinous investment last year in nuclear engineering and construction behemoth CB&I Stone & Webster, itself the product of an ill-fated merger. Toshiba’s nuclear business has been hemorrhaging money at its U.S. construction projects in Georgia and South Carolina. Westinghouse is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget at its two construction projects: Southern’s Vogtle and Scana Corp.’s Summer units, a total of four Westinghouse AP1000 reactors under construction. Toshiba faces the possibility that its nuclear troubles will lead the company to a negative net worth. My colleague Aaron Larson describes the gory business details well. The bottom line is that Westinghouse threatens to bring Toshiba to its financial knees, although the firm is too large to fail entirely. It may well require a Japanese government bailout. Then there is France’s Areva, which has been bleeding red ink for more than a decade and would have expired but for its French government owners, and a recent bailout. The company is far behind schedule and vastly over budget on construction projects in Finland and France. Late last year, discovery of quality control problems in carbon steel forgings from Areva’s Le Creusot Forge shocked the company. The allegations closed 20 of France’s 58 operating reactors, which also could jeopardize regulatory approval for extended operation at the aging plants.
Power Mag 1st Jan 2017 read more »
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) recently issued a six page memorandum for the Trump transition team titled Nuclear Power in America and the World that outlines a program to improve America’s nuclear energy capabilities. It leads with the following paragraph. Economic, reliable, stable electricity is the lifeblood of our economy, a critical ingredient of prosperity for companies big and small, and for many cities and rural areas. A key part of that system is nuclear electricity, which is fundamental to energy independence, national security and assuring that American industry will retain global technological leadership in the manufacture and export of energy technology. The memo pre-emptively responds to the neoliberals that have spent most of the last 40 years preaching the gospel of deregulation and “free” enterprise as the inevitable path for providing critical energy fuels and electricity supplies with the following reminder. “The energy sector has always been heavily shaped by government policy.” Even restructured energy markets that claim to be competitive are fundamentally altered by choices made by various regulatory decisions and government purchasing policies.
Forbes 31st Dec 2016 read more »
Letter: Damon Moglen & S. David Freeman. Re “To Save the Planet, Go Nuclear,” by Senators Lamar Alexander and Sheldon Whitehouse (Op-Ed, Dec. 22): The writers appear to have forgotten both the renewable revolution and the dangers of nuclear power. Today solar and wind power are lower in cost than even the existing nuclear plants, much less the runaway cost of new nuclear reactors. They also ignore the danger of nuclear power despite the very real risk of a huge release of deadly radiation from Fukushima-type accidents and the highly radioactive waste that they generate, for which there is no safe resting place after a 50-year search. The real path “to save the planet” is the agreement we’ve reached in California with Pacific Gas and Electric to replace the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant with a portfolio of efficiency and renewable energy. The utility itself agreed that renewables are cheaper than continuing to run that old nuclear plant.
New York Times 31st Dec 2016 read more »