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Nuke developer cuts back work, staff on new units for South Texas Project

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 by Josh Rosenblatt

Nuclear Innovation North America LLC, the nuclear development company jointly owned by NRG Energy, Inc and Toshiba, announced Monday that it would be reducing the “scope of development at the South Texas Project expansion” in response to the recent nuclear disaster in Japan.


NRG representatives have been in informal talks with Austin Energy to sell the Austin utility electricity from the proposed two new reactors (STP 3 and 4) constituting that expansion. (See In Fact Daily, January 19, 2011). The move means between 600 and 700 people working on the expansion throughout the country will be laid off.


According to a statement released yesterday, Nuclear Innovation North America will be limiting activity on STP 3 and 4 to work related to licensing and securing a federal loan guarantee in order to “allow time for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other nuclear stakeholders to assess the lessons that can be learned from the events in Japan.”


That means that all work related to construction – such as engineering and the acquisition of components – has been put on hold, NRG Director of Communications David Knox told In Fact Daily.


“President Obama said last week that the country needs to do a review of what is happening in Japan and how we can make our own nuclear plants safer based on the results of that review,” said Knox. “The NRC said they’re going to do this review, and because of having that review, which we agree needs to be done, we’re in a period of uncertainty as to what the requirements for the permitting of the (STP) plant are going to be. We need to slow down on these things that could end up needing to be redone.”


Knox said that, historically, cost overruns and delays related to nuclear power plants are often the result of changes in government regulations and requirements. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure the project is on budget and on schedule and we’re looking at anything that could cause delays in the project,” he said. “Redoing work is very expensive. So let’s slow down while we’re in this period of uncertainty.”


What that slowdown means is that Nuclear Innovation North America and the consortium it awarded the STP 3 and 4 engineering, procurement, and construction contract to – composed of Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corporation and the Shaw Group – will be laying off between 60 and 70 percent of the employees and contractors currently working on the expansion.


Knox said the workers – all of whom are involved with the construction of the new reactors, not the licensing or the loan guarantees – were notified Monday but that some might be kept on to work on the STP 1 and 2 reactors or moved to Nuclear Innovation North America or NRG.

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