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Good news: Nuclear capacity projected to increase by 2020

Mar 11, 2016

There’s good news for SMACNA contractors who provide services to nuclear power plants in the U.S. and Canada.

Despite the closure of four nuclear power plants in the past four years and the scheduled retirement of aging plants by 2019, the planned addition of more than 5,000 megawatts (MW) of nuclear power by 2020 could result in an increase of total U.S. nuclear capacity, says the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

A recent SMACNA survey of contractors who perform industrial work indicates that the nuclear component comprises a substantial percentage of this typically diverse market sector.

“The nuclear market is just about to take off,” said Bill Giffin, vice president and partner of SMACNA member Giffin Sheet Metals Ltd., Toronto, Canada. “We are definitely targeting this market as other markets have softened considerably.”

Giffin Sheet Metals recently closed a bid for a significant project at a local facility that is being upgraded. “Another facility a few hours from Toronto is scheduled for retrofit in 2020, which will be significant work for our sector,” he added.

SMACNA member Superior Air Handling, Clearfield, Utah, has been contracted to complete work on the V.C. Summer Unit 2 in South Carolina and the Vogtle plant in eastern Georgia, which will add 2,200 megawatts (MW) to the grid by 2020.

“Our long term view on the nuclear market remains the same, it is truly contingent upon the success of these flagship projects,” noted Steve Wood, Superior Air’s director of environmental and energy. “If they are successful then the market will increase in the future.”

The Vogtle plant in Georgia and the V.C. Summer plant in South Carolina, which have both experienced project delays, are scheduled to begin operating two new reactors (each with 1,117 MW capacity) in 2019 and 2020.

Even with 2,140 MW in scheduled retirements, the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects U.S. nuclear capacity to grow to 5,618 MW in scheduled additions by 2020.

Five new reactors are under construction in the United States. The 1,150 MW-plant Watts Bar Unit 2 in Tennessee is expected to come online this year.

Thirty U.S. states have nuclear power plants. Illinois has the most nuclear capacity, followed by Pennsylvania. The average nuclear unit capacity is just under 1,000 MW. The U.S. has 99 operating nuclear power reactors at 62 different nuclear power plants.

Read the full article in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s blog Today in Energy.