For Sale: Two Half-Finished Nuclear Reactors (Never Used)

Looking to buy two half-finished nuclear reactors? It may be your lucky day.

U.S. utility owner Scana Corp. dropped a plan to build two reactors at the V.C. Summer power plant in South Carolina on Monday after the projected total costs exceeded $20 billion. The cancelation of the project is another blow to the much-hyped (and thus far non-existent) nuclear renaissance in the U.S. As cheap natural gas squeezes the margins of nuclear generators, there’s only one company currently building reactors in the country—Southern Co., at its Vogtle plant in Georgia.

So what’s a utility to do with two unfinished nukes laying around in South Carolina? Scana Chief Executive Officer Kevin Marsh said in a call with analysts Monday that he wants to keep the equipment in operating condition in case someone in China, India or the U.K. wants to buy it.

But finding a buyer for the plant may be difficult. “The Chinese are developing a competitive product, the Brits are in trouble with their nuclear projects and the Indians want to develop their own supply chain,” said Chris Gadomski, a nuclear industry analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. It’s more likely the South Carolina project is "mothballed," he said.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Reactors have found new buyers and new life in the past. In 2016, the Tennessee Valley Authority turned on its Watts Bar 2 reactor after work had been suspended in 1985. Franklin L. Haney bought an unfinished, decades-old nuclear plant in northern Alabama at an auction last November for $111 million. The Bellefonte plant came with two partially built nuclear reactors, one that’s about 55 percent complete and another about 35 percent finished. Haney still has to get the mothballed station into working order, find customers for its power and qualify for a federal nuclear production tax credit.

Perhaps a similar fate awaits the V.C. Summer plant. “It makes more sense to let them sit in place, maintain them, and see if they can be revisited,” Gadomski said.

(Corrects end date for data in the chart.)

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