PSC urged to determine whether Vogtle nukes should be scrapped

[private]Environmental and consumer groups have asked the Public Service Commission to determine the point at which the cost overruns on the Plant Vogtle nuclear reactors would justify canceling the $16 billion construction project.

The PSC is scheduled to vote Aug. 18 on the latest round of cost reports submitted by Georgia Power Co. on the nuclear plants that were first approved for construction in 2009 but might not begin generating electricity until 2019 or later.

In briefs filed with the regulatory panel, Georgia Watch, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), and Nuclear Watch South all argued that the increasing costs and continued construction delays were bringing the Vogtle project to the point where it would be more economical to kill the reactors and build a natural gas-fired plant instead.

“There is a cost at which the Vogtle Project is uneconomical,” said the brief filed by former PSC member Bobby Baker for SACE. “For anyone to deny the fact is clearly unreasonable and imprudent.”

“The number may be $20 billion or $25 billion, but there is some point at which the cost of the project is so excessive that it is more economical to stop construction of Unit 3 and/or Unit 4 and build, for instance, a comparable sized combined cycle natural gas generation unit,” SACE contended.

Georgia Watch’s Liz Coyle said the Commission should require its staffers and Georgia Power to conduct an economic analysis of the two alternatives, “as well as to the cost of developing and operating an equivalent capacity in new wind, solar and other renewable projects.”

Jim Clarkson of the Resource Supply Management consulting firm said Vogtle’s cost “has moved from the initial estimate of $14.1 billion to $16.4 billion with almost certainly more cost to come before the project is finished.”

Georgia Power’s attorneys repeated the company’s standard statement that the Vogtle nuclear project “continues to be well-managed and is progressing toward the Company’s goal of providing a safe, reliable, clean, and cost-effective source of electricity.”

The only issue the PSC should be deciding at this point, Georgia Power argued, is the approval of the $169 million spent by the utility on construction costs during the July-December 2014 period.

PSC members have strongly supported the Vogtle project, even with the delays and cost overruns, and they are expected to sign off on the latest cost monitoring report next week.

© 2015 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Georgia Power , Georgia Watch , nuclear project , Plant Vogtle , PSC , SACE