PSC approves latest spending report on Vogtle nukes

[private]The Public Service Commission voted 5-0 Tuesday to approve the money Georgia Power spent on Plant Vogtle nuclear construction during the second half of 2014, while rejecting all requests that they take a hard look at whether cost increases would justify scrapping the project.

In signing off on the $169 million spent during the latest six-month period, Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald emphasized: “This commission has not approved any cost overruns whatsoever.”

The projected cost of the two nuclear reactors has increased from an initial $14 billion to more than $16 billion, while construction has fallen at least 39 months behind schedule. The earliest date for unit 3 to begin generating electricity is now 2019, even though Georgia Power has been charging ratepayers for the project since 2011.

The portion of the Vogtle project regulated by the PSC had an initial certified cost of $6.1 billion, an amount that has increased to more than $7.5 billion.

“We continue to support Plant Vogtle as a project that will provide clean, carbon-free energy for Georgia’s future,” Commission Chairman Chuck Eaton said.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), Nuclear Watch South, and the Georgia Watch consumer organization have requested that the PSC staff analyze whether costs have reached the point where it would be more economical to stop the nuclear construction and build a gas-fired facility instead, or rely on more wind and solar generation.

SACE also asked that the PSC minimize the financial impact of cost overruns by reducing Georgia Power’s return on equity from the current 10.95 percent when the utility begins accruing return on equity expenses on its total capital costs.

The commissioners would have none of that. They voted to accept a staff recommendation to approve the cost monitoring report while specifically denying all the requests filed by outside groups.

“I’d like to make this a clean sweep,” Commissioner Stan Wise said. “It’s not going to change anything we do on Vogtle. Wind and solar is going to stand on its own, like it always does.”

“The commissioners went out of their way today to display their slavish devotion to nuclear power, refusing to even entertain the question of whether there is a better and cheaper way for Georgia citizens to light and air condition their homes,” said Glenn Carroll of Nuclear Watch South.

“During this reporting period, we’ve heard that the project is likely delayed another three months beyond the current 39-month delay,” said Sara Barczak of SACE. “With further delays, costs increase. The dramatic erosion of any claimed benefits reduces the financial viability of Plant Vogtle’s expansion and completely undermines the Georgia Power’s arguments regarding the long-term benefits to ratepayers.”

© 2015 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: cost report , Georgia Power , Georgia Watch , nuclear reactors , Nuclear Watch South , Plant Vogtle , PSC , SACE