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Toshiba’s US nuclear problems provide cautionary tale for UK


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Experts say construction delays and cost problems at two plants are due to lack of experience and absence of supply chains. The roots of Toshiba’s admission this week that it has serious doubts over its “ability to continue as a going concern” can be found near two small US towns. It is the four reactors being built for nuclear power stations outside Waynesboro, in Georgia, and Jenkinsville, South Carolina, by the company’s US subsidiary Westinghouse that have left the Japanese corporation facing an annual loss of £7.37bn. Construction work on the units has run hugely over budget and over schedule, casting a shadow over two of the biggest new nuclear power station projects in the US for years. Events came to a head last month when Westinghouse was forced to file for bankruptcy protection to limit Toshiba’s losses. Westinghouse’s problems in Waynesboro and Jenkinsville could provide a cautionary tale for the UK, which is also embarking on a nuclear power station-building programme. Experts said the delays and cost problems were due to America’s lack of recent experience in building atomic power plants. “I don’t think it is necessarily because of an inherent issue of US skills but rather the lack of practice,” said Richard Nephew, a professor at the Centre on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University. “There simply have not been as many new reactor builds in the US and this has reduced the overall pool of skilled labor, no question.” The absence of a mass production supply chain, due to the small number of the Westinghouse-designed reactors being built, played a part too, he added. Regulatory issues had also delayed construction. Toshiba’s losses stem from Westinghouse’s acquisition in 2015 of the nuclear construction business CB&I Stone & Webster, which it hoped would solve the delays on the two sites. That deal has now backfired spectacularly, pushing Westinghouse and its parent company to the brink of financial collapse. The regulator for one of the projects, Plant Vogtle, in Georgia, has said Westinghouse’s bankruptcy means the project will require more “time and money”. Meanwhile the utility company paying for the Virgil C Summer Nuclear Generating Station, near Jenkinsville, South Carolina, warned this weekthat abandonment of the project was one of the options it was now considering.

Read More: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/14/toshiba-us-nuclear-problems-uk-cautionary-tale

Posted by on Apr 16 2017. Filed under Renewable energy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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