- Natural gas will remain the main option for large generation capacity additions by utilities to meet the new EPA emissions limits but new, potentially safer and more affordable nuclear could be a better investment in the long run, according to a new Standard & Poor’s report.
- Neither the passive safety measures being used at Georgia Power's Vogtle station and South Carolina Electric & Gas's Summer plant or the safety measures added to new designs after the 2011 Fukushima meltdown will be excessively costly, S&P said. But both Georgia Power, which obtained a federal loan guarantee to help fund Vogtle, and SCE&G, which is privately financing Summer, have negative bond ratings.
- Seven projects under licensing review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be eligible to be built after the 4,600 megawatts at the Vogtle and Summer facilities, scheduled to go into service at the end of 2017, are operational.
The EPA's proposed regulations target a 30% emissions reduction from 2005 levels by 2030 and new nuclear, like renewables and energy efficiency, offers generation diversity for utilities looking to comply with them. Small, 300 megawatt modular reactors that incorporate passive safety measures could be a viable emissions-free option, according to S&P.
Delays in construction at Vogtle and Summer have increased costs between 7% and 10% but, according to S&P, those increases have been partly offset by lower-than-budgeted labor and interest costs. The three public power utilities which partnered with Georgia Power on Vogtle (Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia) and with SCE&G on Summer (Oglethorpe Power, Santee Cooper), have issued debt to help cover construction costs.