Plant Vogtle, the nuclear power plant near Augusta that is currently adding two new reactors, has a new problem on their hands: the main contractor just declared bankruptcy, meaning Georgia Power’s ratepayers could be on the hook for billions in loan guarantees and continued cost overruns related to the bankruptcy.
Georgia Watch, a consumer watchdog group, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, have both been critical of the project from the start. Now, they are reiterating their calls that the project be shut down before Georgia Power ratepayers get stuck with even more costs on a project that was already experiencing delays and problems before the bankruptcy filing.
“We are extremely concerned and see no option ahead that does not further impact the rates that Georgia Power customers, residential customers in particular, are going to be paying,” said Liz Coyle, executive director of Georgia Watch.
Westinghouse Electric Corp., a branch of Japanese company Toshiba, just filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy and now Southern Company (the owner of Georgia Power) must decide if and how to complete the project.
“Every option is on the table,” Georgia Power attorney Kevin Green told members of the Georgia Public Service Commission last Thursday.
Members of the Commission, which regulates utilities in this state, had a mix of responses about the bankruptcy. Stan Wise, chairman of Georgia’s public service commission, and Commissioner H. Doug Everett both made comments indicating they believed Georgia Power would be able to complete the project. Commissioner Tim Echols, on the other hand, has been a bit more critical.
Keep in mind, this is the same body that has been approving the cost overruns and project delays, with little consequence to Georgia Power. Commissioners are all publicly elected officials that serve staggered, six year terms, and, currently, they are all Republicans.
Plant Vogtle is already facing about $6 billion in cost overruns and is already facing a three year or more delay on completing on the project. As the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy notes, “Georgia Power customers are already paying more than 9.7 percent on their monthly bills in Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery (NCCR) costs and over $1.8 billion in pre-collected financing costs have been charged to ratepayers due to anti-consumer state legislation passed in 2009 to incentivize building new reactors.”
The expansion of Plant Vogtle continues to be a bad deal for ratepayers.