PSC approves latest Vogtle spending, won’t talk about Toshiba troubles

[private]In a meeting that was more noteworthy for what was not done, the Public Service Commission voted Tuesday to approve the latest round of construction expenditures on the Plant Vogtle nuclear reactors.

Commissioners routinely okayed the $141 million spent by Georgia Power on nuclear units three and four during the period from January through June of 2016.

But the commissioners would not confront the 800-pound gorilla in the room: the fact that the enormous cost overruns on the Vogtle project helped drive Japanese corporate giant Toshiba to the brink of bankruptcy, which could endanger completion of the reactors.

Except for a passing reference by Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, there was no discussion of the financial troubles plaguing Toshiba and its subsidiary, Westinghouse Electric, which is the primary contractor for the reactors at Vogtle and at a nuclear plant in South Carolina.

The Vogtle project was already nearly $2 billion over budget and anywhere from 39 to 45 months behind schedule before Toshiba disclosed its financial meltdown.

In a statement released after the meeting, the commissioners contended that everything was just fine.

“The Plant Vogtle project continues to make progress despite well-publicized setbacks,” PSC Chairman Stan Wise said. “I believe that in the long run this project, when completed, will provide reliable, stable and carbon free electricity for many generations of Georgians.”

“Nuclear power is working every day for Georgia, and our people are familiar with it,” said Commissioner Tim Echols. “We just have to make sure we keep mechanisms in place to protect our ratepayers.”

The commission slapped down an attempt by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) to compel Georgia Power to disclose information on what it’s doing to mitigate the cost overruns and schedule delays with Vogtle.

A recommendation to that effect was endorsed by the PSC staff and presented to the commissioners for a vote, but they rejected it.

“The information is on file in response to data requests,” Wise said. “If SACE wants to see it, they can file a non-disclosure agreement. If they want to challenge the trade secret designation, they have remedies for that as well. I think this is overkill and it’s appropriate that we deny it.”

The commissoners voted 5-0 to delete the SACE recommendation when they gave their approval to the Vogtle expenditures.

“We appreciate the staff’s support of some of our recommendations and are disappointed that the commission ignored their advice,” said Sara Barczak of SACE. “Given Toshiba’s financial meltdown, there are even more problems facing the very troubled Vogtle construction project that is only 36 percent complete more than seven years in, which increases the financial risks to customers.”

“It’s hard to understand why the commission wouldn’t at least want to know more about what’s going on by having Georgia Power provide an answer to the question: what is being done to make sure those further delayed dates are met?” Barczak added.

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Georgia Power , Plant Vogtle nuclear reactors , PSC , Stan Wise , Tim Echols , Toshiba financial problems , Westinghouse