New nuclear reactor designs and concepts are expensive, challenging – New GAO report

This blog was written by Sara Barczak, former Regional Advocacy Director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | July 29, 2015 | Energy Policy, Nuclear

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new technology assessment report yesterday, “Nuclear Reactors: Status and challenges in development and deployment of new commercial concepts.” But the results of the study were anything but new. The GAO’s findings confirmed that new nuclear reactor technologies, such as small modular reactors (SMRs), and other new reactor design concepts are extremely expensive and face numerous, significant challenges. We haven’t forgotten that Taxpayers for Common Sense claimed SMRs were a taxpayer boondoggle and in 2013 awarded “The Golden Fleece” to the Department of Energy for federal spending on them.

To us the GAO’s findings sound eerily familiar to what has been experienced by the five nuclear reactor projects under construction here in the U.S., which are all in the Southeast. TVA’s Watts Bar 2 in Tennessee has been under construction for well over 30 years and has busted it’s budget more than once. And the four new Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 reactors being built (two each) at Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle in Georgia and SCANA’s V.C. Summer in South Carolina are at least 39-months delayed and billions of dollars over budget, with many challenges remaining.

Given the serious concerns about the need to reduce carbon emissions to mitigate global climate change, the GAO was requested to conduct this study by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and Committee on Appropriations. Let’s hope that regulators, utilities, government agencies and elected officials actually read the report and consequently take a step back from their ill-advised nuclear aspirations and nuclear cheerleading, such as TVA’s possible pursuit of SMRs at their Clinch River Site in Tennessee, a site where they pursued and then abandoned another questionable nuclear project — breeder reactors.

No one needs to experience, nor can afford, yet another nuclear boondoggle.

Find all the information from the GAO’s analysis, including a podcast, here.

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