Two Half-Built US Nuclear Reactors Will Be Saved After All

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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A pair of half-finished nuclear reactors in Vogtle, Ga. will be completed, the Japanese company Toshiba announced Saturday.

Toshiba will invest about $3.7 billion into completing the reactors after delays and unexpected costs increases plagued their construction. Toshiba’s nuclear subsidiary Westinghouse will transfer management of the project to Southern Company, an American utility after Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy protection in late March.

Westinghouse’s bankruptcy raised questions about the future of the two new reactors at the Vogtle nuclear plant, and numerous media outlets speculated that the project would be cancelled. The reactors are about 60 percent complete, according to Southern Company.

“We are encouraged by this development and the good faith shown by the two parties,” David Blee, executive director of the Nuclear Infrastructure Council, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The Toshiba-Southern agreement is a watershed for Vogtle inasmuch as it was the critical linchpin for any plan to complete the two new units.”

The Vogtle reactors are roughly three years behind schedule and $3 billion over their original budget. Toshiba purchased the American nuclear company Westinghouse in 2006 for about $5.4 billion and added another nuclear engineering firm called Chicago Bridge & Iron’s (CB&I) last December for $229 million.

“While the path forward is not without challenges this paves the way for Southern to execute the construction engineering necessary to get Vogtle into the end zone,” Blee said. “We hope this agreement will also be the impetus for a mirror agreement with SCANA and Toshiba on the twin new units at VC Summer in South Carolina.”

Westinghouse was also managing the Summer project in South Carolina, which is two years behind schedule and $4.2 billion over budget. Toshiba clarified Saturday that it’s “still in negotiations” with the Summer project’s owners.

Toshiba turned an estimated profit of $1.2 billion in 2016, but the company is considering formally listing U.S. nuclear companies that it purchased as a net loss, then investing more into other companies. Toshiba says that Westinghouse has racked up a debt of $9.8 billion.

“Any resurgence of nuclear energy in the US hinges on completion of these two first-of-kind advanced generation flagship projects, which will be paying dividends to consumers with reliable, clean baseload power for 80 years or more,” Blee said.

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