Reactor vessel delivered to Calvert Cliffs; from brochure in Will Davis collection.
by Will Davis
The year 1971 saw a continuation of the general trend of rising capital costs for all types of power plants, described by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in its publication for 1971 as having “risen rather rapidly.” According to the AEC, the aggregate major causes for the increases in costs specific to nuclear electric power plants were as follows, with author’s analysis accompanying each:
Late delivery of components. This problem had cropped up as the enormity of nuclear plant orders right at the end of the last decade hit, and vendors were forced to begin to increase delivery times. However, expansion of domestic capacity and the influx of foreign made reactor vessels and turbine generators alleviated the largest sources of concern; indeed, the same volume which points up this delivery problem also notes on a later page that, for example, domestic reactor vessel manufacturing capacity “would probably be adequate for the next ten years.”
Scarcity of skilled labor: This same problem has occurred today, that is to say in modern times, as the United States attempts to restart an industry essentially dormant for several decades. In the early days, experienced labor (and design engineers for that matter) could move from project to project, but as the flood of plant orders came in it became impossible to build the desired plants on the experienced labor and design personnel alone. Much “new blood” had to come into the industry, and this took time to train and develop. Errors caused by inexperience led to high costs when equipment had to be pulled out, reinstalled and re-certified.
Necessity for backfitting to meet safety requirements: This item is the age-old “moving goal posts” problem, still extant today. It requires no explanation other than to