Georgia regulators are doubling down on their support for the Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion project, signalling their support in a meeting earlier this week.
The project’s main contractor — Westinghouse Electric, a subsidiary of Japanese-based Toshiba Corporation — declared bankruptcy earlier this year causing uncertainty for both Plant Vogtle and another nuclear reactor project in South Carolina. Both projects represented the first new nuclear reactors being built in this country in more than two decades.
Now, Georgia Power has predicted that completing the project will cost $25 billion and take until 2022 — more than double the original budget and six years behind schedule. Georgia Power’s parent company Southern Company is lobbying Congress to extend a tax credit that expires in 2021 that they’ve been counting on to keep the project viable. They are also seeking federal financial support for the project, although South Carolina energy companies did not receive a warm reception from the Department of Energy over a similar request.
Energy companies in South Carolina decided not to complete the nuclear reactors on their own, and many critics of nuclear power are encouraging Georgia to do the same thing.
“Georgia Power is alone in its pursuit of expensive and risky nuclear power,” the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club wrote in an email to supporters.
“Plant Vogtle is less than halfway complete, and massive cost overruns and continued delays mean that the average Georgia household is still required to pay Georgia Power hundreds of dollars for power that we may never get. We need swift, smart, and reliable investments in clean energy like wind and solar to drive down the cost of electricity for Georgians and to reduce our climate pollution,” they added.
However energy regulators don’t seem to feel that way. Earlier this week, Georgia’s Public Service Commission asked Georgia Power for additional details on what’ll it take to complete the project, signalling support for the project to continue, the Atlanta Business Chronicle noted.
The chairman of the Commission, Stan Wise, said, “This vote today sends a message to the company, the company’s partners, ratepayers, and Wall Street that the commission continues to be supportive of this project provided it can be done economically.”
While vice chairman Tim Echols went to Washington to update lawmakers on the project, particularly since Georgia may need additional federal dollars to make the project economically viable. The project has already received billions in loan guarantees, while Georgia ratepayers have fronted the money for this risky project in the form of a monthly surcharge on every ratepayer’s bill.
“We are not going to throw in the towel like South Carolina,” Echols said in an interview with Bloomberg.
Lauren “Bubba” McDonald was the only commissioner to vote against the measure. Earlier this year, he introduced a resolution asking Georgia Power to stop collecting the surcharge they charge ratepayers — including schools and other taxpayer funded institutions — to fund the expansion. But that ultimately was shot down.
The Public Service Commission expects to receive updated plans on cost and completion from Georgia Power by the end of the month.