The Nuclear Industry’s Track Record Nationally

Cost Overruns, Delays, Cancellations

The stories of nuclear power projects over the decades carry recurring themes: cost overruns, delays, setbacks and abandonment.

A global study found that 97% of nuclear projects have ended with final costs exceeding initial budgets, with an average overrun of $1.3 billion. Two-thirds of all projects took more time than projected. In the 1980s, American utilities lost $100 billion on nuclear plants that were never finished. More than 100 nuclear reactors in the U.S. have been cancelled, nearly half of which had already begun construction. 

For more on these project stories and other abandoned nuclear projects in the U.S., check out Power Magazine’s interactive map

Plant Vogtle

Where: Waynesboro, Georgia

When: 2013-2021

Outcome: The two units (3&4) currently under construction were initially expected to be complete by 2017. Current estimates for completion range from 2022 to late 2023. 

Key cost stats: Costs have ballooned from $14 billion to over $27 billion for the new units, and every additional month of delay costs another $90 million. The first two units, constructed between 1976-1987, were expected to cost $660 million but ended up costing almost $9 billion.

Notable facts: Most electric customers in Georgia will have to pay for the project, and some are already paying. Rates for Georgia Power ratepayers have gone up 3.4% to pay for earlier costs and the utility projects rates will rise another 6.6%, for a total increase of 10%. 

Learn more: Wikipedia, Associated Press

V.C. Summer Project

Where: Jenkinsville, South Carolina

When: 2008-2017

Outcome: The two planned nuclear reactors were never finished.

Key cost stats: Estimated construction costs climbed to $25 billion after an initial investment of $9 billion. The $16 billion gap prompted the utilities to bow out of the project, effectively ending it.

Notable facts: South Carolina Electric & Gas customers will pay a substantial amount of the $16 billion debt through their monthly power bills over the next 20 years.

Learn more: Wikipedia

Marble Hill Nuclear Power Plant

Where: Madison, Indiana

When: 1977-1984

Outcome: Construction began but the plant was never completed.

Key cost stats: $2.5 billion spent before the project was abandoned.

Notable facts: Marble Hill is the most expensive nuclear construction project ever abandoned. Demolition has been ongoing since 2008.

Learn more: Wikipedia

Washington Public Power Supply System (Energy Northwest)

Where: Washington

When: 1970s-80s

Outcome: Construction of 4 of the 5 nuclear plants was terminated before completion.

Key cost stats: By 1982, the plants were years behind schedule and projected costs were four times over the original budget, swelling from $4.5 billion initially to $24 billion. 

Notable facts: When WA Public Power Supply System defaulted on $2.25 billion in municipal bonds financing two of the five nuclear plants, it was the nation’s largest ever municipal bond default at the time -- and is still the second largest such default today. Ultimately bondholders would receive between 10-40 cents on every dollar invested. In 1998, the Supply System changed its name to Energy Northwest in hopes of shedding its negative image, costing ratepayers $260,000. Energy Northwest was to be the plant operator for the UAMPS/NuScale proposed SMR project in Idaho Falls, but backed out in early 2021. 

Learn More: HistoryLink, Seattle Times, Wikipedia

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