Ga. Power to spend $174.5 million on nuke plant preparatory work

[private]Georgia Power wants to spend $174.5 million for the initial planning and licensing work on a new nuclear reactor and recover that money from ratepayers, even though it will be at least 15 years before construction would begin on the facility.

The company’s plans were disclosed Monday as the Public Service Commission held the first day of hearings on Georgia Power’s integrated resources plan (IRP), which outlines how the utility will meet its customers’ demand for electricity over the next 20 years.

In a recent filing with the PSC, Georgia Power said it has purchased about 7,000 acres in Stewart County south of Columbus as the proposed site for the nuclear plant and started preliminary planning work on it.

“Right now we are saying, let’s simply do the studies to determine if Stewart is a viable location,” testified Alison Chiock, the director of resource policy and planning for Georgia Power. “That study will take about three years.”PSC18apr2016A

Chiock said the cost of purchasing the property, doing site preparatory work, and applying for a Combined Operating License (COL) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will amount to $174.5 million.

Georgia Power intended to include that cost in its scheduled filing for a rate increase this summer, Chiock said. However, the company had to agree not to seek a rate increase until 2019 as a condition of getting PSC approval of its acquisition of AGL Resources.

Georgia Power’s talk about building another nuclear plant has raised eyebrows in the business and regulatory communities because of the company’s problems with the two reactors now under construction at Plant Vogtle.

The Vogtle reactors are more than $1.5 billion over budget and 39 months behind schedule. The first unit was originally scheduled to start generating electricity by April 1 of this year. The start date has now been pushed back to the summer of 2019 at the earliest.

Georgia Power purchased the Stewart County property and filed its intent to build a new reactor without briefing the PSC first, a snub that clearly annoyed some of the commissioners.

“I just don’t understand why we weren’t told in advance of this,” Commissioner Tim Echols said.

“Our thinking was, let’s make sure we can get a reasonable price for the land without waving the red flag that the company was interested in this land,” Chiock said. “We’re saying we need to keep all of our options open.”

If the company ultimately decides not to build a nuclear plant in Stewart County, Chiock said the $174.5 million would be deposited in a regulatory asset account and amortized.

Commission members also gave Georgia Power some static over the company’s plans to donate the 70 acres that comprise Plant Kraft to the Georgia Ports Authority when the PSC gives final approval to the facility’s decertification. Plant Kraft is located on the banks of the Savannah River in Port Wentworth.

“Why not sell the land and return the money to the ratepayers?” Echols asked.

If the PSC decides that some of the cost overruns on the Plant Vogtle nukes will be charged back to Georgia Power’s shareholders, the money made from selling the Plant Kraft property “could be a bank account for those shareholders to participate in those overruns,” Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald said.

“We felt like this was the best use of the land and the best way to benefit Georgia,” Chiock said.

© 2016 by The Georgia Report

[/private]

Tags: Bubba McDonald , Georgia Power , IRP , nuclear reactors , PSC , Stewart County , Tim Echols