CyberB0B39 writes: "The Department of Energy is set to approve $6.5B for a Georgia nuclear power plant, the first such plant in more than 3 decades. While other nuclear plants are shutting down due to competition from natural gas, Atlanta-based Southern Company is forging ahead with its planned construction of the plant."
[ED Note: "For those that are wondering, the new nuclear plant will be based on the AP1000 design by Westinghouse Electric Company LLC, a company based in Pittsburgh, PA and a subsidiary of Toshiba."]
I searched the internet and found that people claim there's a 50% risk of default, but I can't find any articles that show where this percentage came from. Apparently the CBO came up with that number a decade ago (7 years prior to 2010 [motherjones.com]. Have half the nuclear plants actually defaulted on their loans? Or is this number just pulled from someone's ass?
Default rates and recovery rates are likely to vary
considerably, both across projects and over the life-time of a given project. CBO does not have enough
information to independently estimate an average
recovery rate for nuclear construction loans.
And it seems like every reactor defaults at sometime during construction or operation. The report does say that CBO assumes a 55% recovery rate, but it's not clear if that's just reactors or every leveraged business.
I was just looking at the same report. It's difficult to conclude anything based on all the hand-waving within. Anyway, Appendix A has a section called "Default and Loss Experience" that is probably the best source of info... but again, they don't come right and give a clear answer. At one point they say "...episodes in which bondholders lose money have been fairly rare ...", but later on they say "...n several notable cases, bondholders have taken sizeable losses ..."
I'm so glad I'm an engineer and not a money guy... talking around the issue without stating any conclusions (like these guys seemed to do, IMO) would drive me nuts.
I searched the internet and found that people claim there's a 50% risk of default
Doesn't matter... Haven't been any new nukes since the 1970s, so any numbers you get will be several decades old, and not necessarily relevant to the world, today.
"The project is widely considered a major test of whether the industry can build nuclear plants without the endemic delays and cost overruns that plagued earlier rounds of building in the 1970s."
The 50% default rate is for commercial loans. When the government guarantees a loan and then the operator can't service it the government usually throws in more money to keep the project afloat. Aside from not wanting to lose the original guarantee amount the government also wants the energy that the plant will generate. That's why guarantees from the government are worth so much more than a guarantee from anyone else - they will keep throwing more and more money at the project almost indefinitely.