Nuclear Power is on Life Support in U.S.

This was supposed to be a time for a nuclear revival in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Energy has a loan guarantee program with tens of billions of dollars that were earmarked to bring costs down for billions of dollars in debt to build new reactors. But the construction boom as stalled out before it ever got started. Now, the boom in nuclear construction appears all but dead.  

Nuclear plant expansions and newbuilds have barely gotten off the drawing board, older plants are closing, and the worst part is that ratepayers across the country are going to foot most of the bill for the nuclear industry's demise.

Promising pojects that never got off the ground
Duke Energy's (NYSE: DUK  ) gave up on a $24 billion nuclear project in Levy County, Florida in early August because of delays and doubts it could recover costs.  

NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG  ) gave up on expanding its South Texas Project in 2011, costing the company $481 million in a writedown. The project was to add two reactors to two existing reactors but cost overruns and low natural gas costs made it les economical than originally planned.  

Electricite de France just reached a deal to potentially sell its nuclear operations to Exelon (NYSE: EXC  ) after the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant expansion stalled and costs skyrocketed. The reactors that are currently operating are even running into trouble with one reactor shut down after a control rod dropped into the reactor . Oops! 

There were also expansion projects in Prairie Island in Minnesota , LaSalle in Illinois, and Limerick in Pennsylvania that never got off the ground because of low cost natural gas and wind generation.  

These new projects were the foundation of an industry revival but natural gas, wind, and solar have gotten in the way.

The old guard of nuclear is fading
It's also important to note that existing capacity is also being shut down, a sign that even older plants can't operate safely or cost efficiently. Entergy (NYSE: ETR  ) decided to shut down the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant last month, a decision that was cheered by local residents who have argued for years that the plant is unsafe. But in the end it was costs that caused Vermont Yankee to be shut down, with Entergy CEO Leo Denault saying "The plant was no longer financially viable."  

Edison International's San Onofre Nuclear Plant in California was shut down for a year due to a radioactive leak before the company decided to shut it down altogether . A Kewaunee nuclear power plant in Wisconsin was shut down earlier this year and will be decommissioned by Dominion, the first time a non-regulated power provider will shut down such a project.  Duke also announced the closure of its Crystal River nuclear plant earlier this year .

Since the last new nuclear plant built in the U.S. broke ground in 1977 it's easy to see that more closures will be coming. Nuclear plants aren't expected to last forever and slowly the aging fleet will shut down like the plants above have.

New reactors are costing a fortune
One project that is going forward is Southern Company's (NYSE: SO  ) Vogtle 3 & 4 expansion. The project got a conditional $8.33 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy  in 2010 but since then has been a disaster of delays and cost overruns.

Georgia Power, Southern Company's subsidiary, is building the project and originally was budgeted for $14 billion. But it has run into delays and lawsuits as designs have changed and last month asked for another $737 million in overrun budget that could be passed on to ratepayers.  

The great thing about building nuclear power in many states is that you can pass project costs on to ratepayers years before a power plant generates any power. If the plant is never finished it's no skin off the utility's back and ratepayers have hundreds of million of costs that went nowhere. That's exactly what Georgia Power is doing to its customers and with Wall Street downgrading Southern Company's debt and stock, the loan guarantee's final agreement at an impasse, and realistic expectations now for a $20 billion budget I doubt the project will ever be completed.  

What if it is completed? A standard 10% return on capital of $20 billion would yield costs of $0.104 per kW-hr before buying fuel or paying a penny to operate the plant. Just capital costs alone are not competitive with natural gas or even large-scale solar plants at today's costs. Nuclear power has proven to be uneconomical today in energy. That's why it will continue to die here in the U.S.

Natural gas, not nuclear is the future
Nuclear power was a key for energy in the 20th century but the future in the U.S. lies with natural gas. For this reason, the Motley Fool is offering a comprehensive look at three energy companies set to soar during this transformation in the energy industry. To find out which three companies are spreading their wings, check out the special free report, "3 Stocks for the American Energy Bonanza." Don't miss out on this timely opportunity; click here to access your report -- it's absolutely free. 


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  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 1:08 PM, triswimbikerun wrote:

    It's too bad nuclear is on life support in the U.S. In Canada it is thriving. Here is a Sept 13 article: Nuclear power: Ontario's reliable, affordable, environmentally responsible and safe choice for electricity and jobs "Thanks to nuclear power, Ontario next year will become the first North American province or state to eliminate coal-fired electrical production."

    Read more here:

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 3:43 PM, dbenitez30 wrote:

    Technically the decision on The Levy Plant by Duke Energy has been deferred until a later date.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 4:27 PM, MarkGoldes wrote:

    Fukushima is a wake up call.

    A surprisingly possible solar superstorm can cause "hundreds of Fukushimas".

    See the AESOP Institute website.

    Note THREE DIRE THREATS and other segments that may be of unusual interest.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 4:29 PM, MarkGoldes wrote:


    That segment on the AESOP Institute website has been renamed: FOUR DIRE THREATS.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 8:27 PM, CrossoverManiac wrote:

    Save your lies and fearmongering for the next Greenpiss meeting. Neo-Luddites will grasp any off-the-wall 1 in a million freak accident as "0N N0ES!!! D00MZDAYZ!!!1111oneone" to fool people back into turning the clock to the pre-Industrial Revolution.

  • Report this Comment On September 15, 2013, at 2:34 PM, KeytoClearskies wrote:

    Aesop Institute is a wonderfully elaborate fraud, operated by Mark Goldes.

    Mark Goldes, starting in the mid-seventies, engaged for several years in the pretense that his company SunWind Ltd was developing a nearly production-ready, road-worthy, wind-powered "windmobile," based on the windmobile invented by James Amick; and that therefore SunWind would be a wonderful investment opportunity.

    After SunWind "dried up" in 1983, Goldes embarked on the long-running pretense that his company Room Temperature Superconductors Inc was developing room-temperature superconductors; and that therefore Room Temperature Superconductors Inc would be a wonderful investment opportunity. He continues the pretense that the company developed something useful, even to this day.

    And then Goldes embarked on the pretense that his company Magnetic Power Inc was developing "NO FUEL ENGINES" based on "Virtual Photon Flux;" and then, on the pretense that MPI was developing horn-powered "NO FUEL ENGINES" based on the resonance of magnetized tuning-rods; and then, on the pretense that his company Chava Energy was developing water-fueled engines based on "collapsing hydrogen orbitals;" and then, on the pretense that he was developing ambient-heat-powered "NO FUEL ENGINES." Goldes has even claimed that Jacob T. Wainwright already patented an ambient-heat-powered engine 100 years ago - even though Wainwright himself certainly never made any such claim, at all. Wainwright's only patent for a turbine or engine was not for any ambient-heat-powered engine, but for a pressurized-gaseous-fluid-powered engine. The innovation of the patent was the use of water to reduce speed - not any use of ambient heat.

    Goldes' forty-year career of "revolutionary invention" pretense has nothing to do with science, but only with pseudoscience and pseudophysics - his lifelong stock-in-trade.

    I have spent months investigating the career of Mark Goldes, Aesop Institute's Perpetual Scam Machine.

    1976: Goldes seeks investors with fraudulent claims to have developed a nearly production-ready, road-worthy, wind-propelled, wind-rechargeable "windmobile" that could reach 60 mph. Goldes has never developed any roadworthy windmobile.

    1998: Goldes fools the gullible US Air Force with his "room temperature superconductor" scam, receiving over four hundred thousand dollars in "Innovative Research" grants. Goldes has never produced any superconductor.

    2005: Goldes seeks investors with fraudulent claims that his company, MPI, is developing "Magnetic Power Modules" based on "Virtual Photon Flux."

    2008: Goldes seeks investors with fraudulent claims that "MPI is also developing breakthrough magnetic energy technologies including POWERGENIE (Power Generation of Electricity by Nondestructive Interference of Energy)." The basic idea of POWERGENIE is to generate electricity from sound energy, by blowing a horn at a magnetized tuning rod. Goldes claims to have "run an electric car for more than 4,800 miles with no need to plug-in." According to Goldes, "[MPI] Revenues from licenses and Joint Ventures are conservatively projected to exceed $1 billion annually by 2012."

    2009: Goldes seeks investors with fraudulent claims that his latest scamporation, Chava Energy, "has been developing enhanced theoretical and practical paths that lead towards commercialization of energy conversion systems that utilize hydrinos." He now claims to be "developing a Self Powered Internal Combustion Engine – SPICE(tm) powered by hydrinos." ("Hydrinos" are pure fiction and do not exist.)

    "For over 20 years Mark Goldes has claimed his company MPI has been developing machines that generate energy for free. In over 20 years his company has not presented one shred of evidence that they can build such machines...

    "For the past five years Mark Goldes has been promising generators 'next year.' He has never delivered. Like 'Alice in Wonderland' there will always be jam tomorrow, but never jam today."

    - Penny Gruber, December 2008

    - Gruber's comment was written almost five years ago - but it's just as true today - except that MPI, Goldes' corporation that he claimed would bring in one billion dollars in revenue from his horn-powered generator in 2012, is now defunct, having never produced any "Magnetic Power Modules" - just as his company called "Room Temperature Superconductors Inc" is also now defunct, having never produced any "room temperature superconductors." Evidently there's a limit to how many years in a row the same company can claim it will finally have something to demonstrate "next year." Now Goldes has a new scamporation, Chava Energy.

    Goldes' current favorite scam is an engine that would run on ambient heat - which is clearly ruled out by the Second Law of Thermodynamics. But of course, the laws of physics always make an exception for the scams of Mark Goldes.

    Mark Goldes is a textbook-ready example of a highly talented con artist who clearly takes pleasure in fooling people with his ludicrous claims, artfully peppered with pseudoscientific rubbish.

    Make no mistake: Mark Goldes' scamtastic Aesop Institute is a ZERO-STAR nonprofit.

    Let's look at just one example of Goldes' offerings in "revolutionary new technology:"

    Most Ludicrous Scamvention: Mark Goldes' "POWERGENIE"

    One of the most laughable of Mark Goldes' many invention scams is his "POWERGENIE" horn-powered generator. The brilliant idea of this revolutionary breakthrough is to blow a horn at a magnetized tuning rod, designed to resonate at the frequency of the horn, and then collect the electromotive energy produced by the vibrations of the rod.

    I'm not making this up.

    POWERGENIE tuning rod engine explained - from the patent:

    [The device incorporates] "an energy transfer and multiplier element being constructed of a ferromagnetic substance... having a natural resonance, due to a physical structure whose dimensions are directly proportional to the wavelength of the resonance frequency..."

    "In this resonant condition, the rod material functions as a tuned waveguide, or longitudinal resonator, for acoustic energy."

    "Ferrite rod 800 is driven to acoustic resonance at the second harmonic of its fundamental resonant frequency by acoustic horn 811, resulting in acoustic wave 816 within the rod having two nodal points... Bias magnet 801 produces magnetic flux 802 extending axially through both nodal points developed within rod 800... The sum electromotive force of coils 820 and 821 develops electrical current and power in resistive load 830."

    - But the patent doesn't tell us who is going to volunteer to blow the horn at the rod all day. Perhaps it will come with an elephant.

    Goldes claimed in 2008 that this wonderful triumph of human genius would bring his company, Magnetic Power Inc, one billion dollars in annual revenue by 2012. Magnetic Power Inc is now defunct, having never produced any "Magnetic Power Modules" - just as his company called "Room Temperature Superconductors Inc" is also now defunct, having never produced any "room temperature superconductors."

  • Report this Comment On September 15, 2013, at 3:24 PM, KeytoClearskies wrote:

    In his effort to gain credence for his ludicrous claims that Aesop Institute is developing an ambient-heat-powered engine, Mark Goldes resorts to outright lies about work done by others.

    For example, Goldes has falsely claimed, in many statemnts, that Jacob T. Wainwright "had earlier patented an engine which demonstrated that The Second Law does not universally apply to heat engines."

    Goldes prefers not to mention the patent number - but as you can see from the list below, Jacob T. Wainwright only ever obtained one single patent for a turbine or engine. It is patent number 1050410.

    Patent 1050410 is for a "Motive-power turbine." It is not for a "heat engine," at all.

    The innovation described by this patent consists in the idea of using a secondary fluid (such as water) to decrease the speed of rotation of the rotor in a high-pressure-gaseous-fluid-propelled turbine.

    This patent has absolutely NOTHING to do with utilizing ambient heat for power. It is also does not in the slightest degree demonstrate any limitation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. There is not the slightest degree of truth in Goldes' claim that it did so.

    Goldes knows very well that Wainwright's turbine patent has nothing to do with ambient heat and certainly does not demonstrate any limitation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

    Goldes' lies about the Wainwright patent are deeply revealing. They show very clearly the essential dishonesty and lack of integrity which has characterized his career for the past forty years.

    from which we can find:


    The first image shows the turbine from side view and rotor blades are left to the imagination. To understand the first image you must look at the send image

    the second image shows the rotor blades from a top view.

  • Report this Comment On September 15, 2013, at 5:04 PM, AceHoffman wrote:

    Still bullish on Exelon and Southern Company? Why?!? Perhaps Motley Fool should read the article! This was a situation that was foreseeable. The cost estimates of nuclear power plants have always been unreasonable. Now, merely replacing parts is pricing existing nuclear power reactors out of their own captive markets! Crystal River couldn't repair their dome cost-effectively, and San Onofre's owners also claim it wasn't the activists (my buddies and me!) that got it closed, it was the cost/benefit analysis. Well, except for one thing: That's exactly what the activists have been saying: These things aren't worth it. The waste problem hasn't been solved -- as any competent judge can tell you -- and has told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who were forced to start new hearings next month on the subject -- 65 years late. Dry cask storage is a cheap and ineffective scam to keep a corrupt industry going -- one that has been on life support for decades, really, feeding at the trough of the ratepayer, forced to pay exorbitant rates by government commissions making backroom deals with the utilities. A Fukushima accident was predictable and in fact, three GE engineers quit decades ago over the scenario that actually unfolded at Fukushima on March 11, 2011. And the 23 similar reactors in the U.S.? They need to ALL be closed or we -- America -- could experience a trillion-dollar financial loss due to a "station blackout." Stock in Exelon, Duke, Entergy, Southern Co. and the other nuke companies won't look very good after an American Fukushima, and anyone calling what happened there a "one in a million" event hasn't been paying attention to how close we came to our own meltdowns time and again here in America (Davis-Besse 2002, for example). Every reactor type has its weaknesses. Time will reveal them all.

  • Report this Comment On September 16, 2013, at 2:06 AM, bonaponta wrote:
  • Report this Comment On October 30, 2013, at 1:04 AM, KeytoClearskies wrote:

    Mark Goldes' proofless claims regarding his Aesop Institute's make-believe strictly ambient heat engine do not represent any new technology, or even a new pretense - they merely represent a rather old pretense.

    "Before the establishment of the Second Law, many people who were interested in inventing a perpetual motion machine had tried to circumvent the restrictions of First Law of Thermodynamics by extracting the massive internal energy of the environment as the power of the machine. Such a machine is called a "perpetual motion machine of the second kind". The second law declared the impossibility of such machines."

    "A perpetual motion machine of the second kind is a machine which spontaneously converts thermal energy into mechanical work. When the thermal energy is equivalent to the work done, this does not violate the law of conservation of energy. However it does violate the more subtle second law of thermodynamics (see also entropy). The signature of a perpetual motion machine of the second kind is that there is only one heat reservoir involved, which is being spontaneously cooled without involving a transfer of heat to a cooler reservoir. This conversion of heat into useful work, without any side effect, is impossible, according to the second law of thermodynamics."

    Goldes' make-believe ambient-heat-powered engine would be a perpetual motion machine of the second kind, as defined above. Goldes is not developing any such engine; he is merely developing a pretense - as usual.

    Goldes' ambient-heat-powered engine would not merely "circumvent" the Second Law of Thermodynamics - it would actually DISPROVE the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

    An engine that uses ambient heat would need to be able to DECREASE the entropy of the universe. The Second Law tells us that we can never decrease the entropy of the universe, or of an isolated system.

    As a consequence of this law:

    "It is impossible for any device operating on a cycle to produce net work from a single temperature reservoir; the production of net work requires flow of heat from a hotter reservoir to a colder reservoir."

    In the make-believe ambient-heat-powered engine there are not two heat reservoirs at different temperatures; no reservoir would be available at any temperature other than the ambient temperature. No matter what cycle we design with this constraint, we will find that the cycle would have to be able to decrease the entropy of the universe in order to do any work.

    The formulation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics as a constraint on entropy change is one of the most beautifully simple, and well-established, laws of physics.

    The Second Law tells us that we can never build an engine that does some work with heat taken from a heat reservoir, without also transferring some heat to another reservoir at a lower temperature.

    An equivalent statement is that we can't decrease the total entropy of an isolated system.

    The entropy change differential due to heat transfer to or from a reservoir is inversely related to the temperature at which the transfer occurs. The consequence is that transferring heat INTO a cold reservoir produces a larger GAIN in entropy, than the LOSS of entropy that occurs due to transfer of the same amount of heat FROM a hot reservoir. This noteworthy and remarkable inequality enables a heat engine to use some heat to do some work without violating the Second Law - as long as it can make use of two different heat reservoirs, at different temperatures. The ambient-heat-powered engine only involves a single reservoir, at a single temperature (at any given moment). When it reduces the entropy of the reservoir by using some of the heat to do work, it has no way to compensate by increasing the entropy anywhere else. Therefore we know for certain that the engine will disappoint us. It will never be able to do any work.

    In Mark Goldes' patent application for his "POWERGENIE" horn-powered tuning-rod engine, he described the tuning-rod as "an energy transfer and multiplier element."

    But of course, for the tuning-rod to "multiply" energy, it would need to disprove the law of conservation of energy. (Obviously the Patent Office should never have allowed such a description.)

    Goldes' use of the term "energy multiplier element" reflects his pretense that the "revolutionary breakthrough" of the amazing "POWERGENIE" could disprove the law of conservation of energy, by presenting the world with a working "energy multiplier."

    Goldes even claimed in 2008 that the POWERGENIE had been demonstrated already in an electric car, driven 4800 miles by his energy-multiplying horn-powered tuning-rod.

    But it seems that most people, for some reason, had difficulty accepting the notion that the law of conservation of energy could be proven false.

    And Goldes no doubt noticed that the Second Law of Thermodynamics - that "the entropy of an isolated system tends to increase with time and can never decrease" - is much less clear to most people than the conservation of energy.

    So now, after leaving aside the pretense that he could somehow "multiply energy" with a magnetized tuning-rod, Goldes has chosen to focus, instead, on the pretense that he can disprove the Second Law with an engine powered by ambient heat.

    There is no "new science" in any of Goldes' "revolutionary breakthroughs." There is only pseudoscience and pretense - and nothing new, at all.

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