PSC will decide fate of Vogtle nuclear project on Dec. 21

[private]The Public Service Commission has moved up the date for a decision on the Vogtle nuclear project from mid-February to Dec. 21.

The date was accelerated to give Georgia Power the opportunity to realize a $150 million tax savings that it would receive if it decided to terminate the project before the end of December.

PSC Chairman Stan Wise announced the date change as the commission began hearing testimony from its own staffers and consultants on the best course to take on the two additional nuclear reactors being built at Vogtle.

“It’s important we move forward this year, before the end of the year,” Wise said.

The cost of the Vogtle project has ballooned from an initial projection of $14 billion to more than $25 billion, and the reactors are anywhere from four to six years behind schedule.

Georgia Power and its partners — Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power, and Dalton Utilities — want to continue with the project, but only if they are allowed to pass along all of the cost overruns to their customers in the form of higher rates. Otherwise, they have said they would halt the project.

PSC staffers and consultants are now contending that the project no longer makes economic sense and that Georgia Power’s shareholders should have to eat some of the cost overruns.

“The staff believes it is not appropriate to allocate all of the cost increases onto the ratepayers,” said Steven Roetger. “Our opinion is that part of the costs should be assigned to their shareholders and some to the ratepayers.”

“Are you recommending that we pull the plug?” Commissioner Doug Everett asked.

“We are not,” Roetger said. “We are recommending continuing the project under the conditions we set forth in the testimony.”

PSC staffers said Georgia Power did not do a very good job of managing its prime contractor, Westinghouse Electric, in the months and years before Westinghouse declared bankruptcy. They cited Georgia Power’s failure to develop an integrated project schedule.

“You can’t drive accountability, you can’t do procurement, if you don’t know when you need stuff,” Roetger said.

“Rarely, if ever, were milestones achieved,” said William R. Jacobs, a nuclear engineer who’s been monitoring the project for the PSC.

The PSC also heard more than an hour of testimony Monday from public witnesses who aren’t a direct party to the hearings.

Two of the people who signed up to make comments were John Noel and Lindy Miller, both of whom have said they are running next year for the PSC seat currently held by Chuck Eaton.

Wise refused to let Noel or Miller speak, however. “We’re not gonna let declared candidates speak during public comments,” he said.

“I object, Mr. Commissioner,” Noel said. “I’m a citizen and a ratepayer. That’s discriminatory!”

© 2017 by The Georgia Report


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