The nuclear power industry: Confronting today’s challenges and exploiting unique opportunities

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The changing state of the nuclear power industry

Organizations pursuing nuclear projects face a diverse set of challenges not found elsewhere in the power and utilities industry. These changes affect the nuclear project lifecycle:

  • New technological advances
  • Increasing competitive demands, cost volatility, and financial risk
  • Evolving regulatory pressures

To address these challenges and deliver solutions that withstand regulatory scrutiny PwC helps clients develop a strategic vision and execute projects within cost and schedule, maintaining focus on safety, compliance, and stakeholder interests.

A sudden surge in nuclear decommissioning

According to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the US is seeing a surge of nuclear plant shutdowns for the first time since the late 1990s. While some of these plants were nearing the end of their planned lives, at least eight recent decommissioning projects came ahead of schedule. This fact leads us to believe nuclear decommissioning may become one of the fastest growing segments of the nuclear power industry.

SMRs: A new breed of “small but mighty” reactors

It is no secret that the market for new construction of large reactors is coming to a grinding halt as the costs associated with these investments continue to rise while the cost of other energy sources fall. But experts remain optimistic about nuclear energy—thanks to a new breed of small modular reactors (SMRs).

SMRs offer the following advantages over traditional nuclear reactors:

  • Easier to finance
  • Lower cost, higher efficiency
  • More flexibility for utilities

In fact, in June 2017, DOE Secretary Rick Perry told Congress he wanted to revive the US nuclear industry with a focus on SMRs.

“Clearly, there is growing momentum around SMRs as an affordable, cleaner, low-carbon alternative—one that could possibly even rival liquefied natural gas (LNG) . . . in the coming years.”

Dr. Brooke Traynham, PwCCapital Projects & Infrastructure Director

Six components to successful nuclear projects

Owners who focus on six key components will be better prepared to address all phases of the nuclear project life cycle—and keep their projects on schedule, within budget, and in accordance with regulatory requirements.


Nuclear project case studies

Procurement assessment

After identifying inadequate project controls that led to significant cost overruns on one of their nuclear capital projects, this US government agency solicited PwC’s assistance in reviewing alternatives for improving the project’s cost and schedule performance while lowering the overall risk profile.

PwC performed a detailed cost and risk assessment, including a quantitative risk analysis, to determine areas requiring improved project controls as well as identification of other potential benefits for each alternative acquisition strategy associated with the long-lead/bulk procurements and site preparation activities on the project.

This asset management effort provided the client with a comprehensive overview of the viable acquisition options available and the expertise to reevaluate future acquisition strategies on the project.

Project refurbishment

As it embarked on a massive nuclear refurbishment project, a large US utility sought assistance to proactively navigate the project management and oversight challenges a complex effort such as this could entail.

PwC supported the client by assisting in the development and implementation of governance and control strategies including cost modeling, schedule analytics, risk analysis, contract administration, and scope management and change control.

As a result, the client was able to improve their cost reporting and forecasting, develop a process to identify potential schedule delays in the early stages of the project, and implement effective mitigation strategies. The client also improved vendor contract compliance resulting in the review and acceptance of change orders in a more efficient and structured manner.

Nuclear reactor decommissioning

A large US power generation utility retained PwC to advise on the decommissioning of one of their boiling water reactors, the first nuclear plant in the client’s portfolio to enter the decommissioning lifecycle phase.

PwC assisted the client with the complex project management process—including dealing with technical, regulatory, and political challenges—by performing an assessment of their existing project governance and control framework; and implementing processes to conduct quantitative risk analyses. PwC also provided project cost assurance by evaluating decommissioning cost estimates as well as implementing financial and accounting controls.

Contact us

Daryl  Walcroft

Daryl Walcroft

Principal, Capital Projects & Infrastructure Leader, PwC US

Brooke Traynham Morrison

Brooke Traynham Morrison

Director, Capital Projects & Infrastructure, Nuclear Energy, PwC US

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