PSC postpones “Go/No Go” decision on Plant Vogtle

[private]The Public Service Commission will delay until late February a final decision on whether the financially troubled nuclear project at Plant Vogtle will proceed or be shut down.

PSC Chairman Stan Wise, who initially had set a Dec. 5 date for making the “Go/No Go” decision on the two reactors under construction, said Thursday he’s abandoning that plan in favor of a February date.

Wise said the date was being pushed back because otherwise the PSC staff would not have had enough time to review Georgia Power’s financial reports on the cost of completing or shelving a project that is now $3 billion over budget and more than five years away from completion.

A more crucial date is Aug. 31, when Georgia Power officials have said the utility will file a comprehensive schedule and cost-to-complete assessment of the project, along with an estimate of the cost of cancellation.

Tom Fanning, the CEO of Georgia Power’s parent company, told Wall Street analysts last week that it would cost the company $400 million to terminate the construction project, which is now estimated to cost at least $25 billion to finish (from an initial projection of $14 billion).

Georgia Power is also expected to tell the commission on Aug. 31 whether it wants to proceed with the project or cancel it.

“There has been no final decision by the Georgia Power Company,” attorney Kevin Greene told the commissioners at a Thursday energy committee meeting. “The company has not made its decision yet.”

Industry insiders, however, are predicting that Southern Co. and Georgia Power will continue with construction of the Vogtle reactors, particularly in light of Southern’s decision earlier this year to scuttle a “clean-coal” power plant in Mississippi that ran up more than $4 billion in cost overruns.

Wise said he will ask the commissioners at their Tuesday meeting to approve a list of information items for Georgia Power to produce when it makes its report on Aug. 31. Those datas demands include:

  • What is the cost to complete the project or cancel it?
  • What is the “basis for confidence in these estimates”?
  • What options were considered by the company as alternatives to its recommended action?
  • How did the company “seek to protect the interests of customers” after the contract with the forrmer contractor, Westinghouse, was abandoned?
  • How is the new project management structured in the wake of Westinghouse’s bankruptcy?

“I felt that the staff’s data requests weren’t being responded to (by Georgia Power),” Wise said in explaining why he drew up the list.

Alternative energy groups for a long time have been urging the commission to kill the Vogtle project, citing the excess generation capacity of Georgia Power and the availability of other energy sources like wind and solar.

The Vogtle issue takes on even more political importance because two commissioners, Wise and Chuck Eaton, are up for reelection next year.

John Noel, a former legislator who has announced he is running against Eaton, showed up at Thursday’s energy committee meeting to urge that the commissioners not continue with the Vogtle project.

“You’re going to sink tens of billions of dollars into a dinosaur, and that’s what I’m concerned about,” Noel said.

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Georgia Power , John Noel , Plant Vogtle , PSC , Stan Wise