Georgia Power’s owner has voted to push ahead with building Plant Vogtle, a chaotic nuclear project beset with multi-year construction delays, bankruptcy, and a price tag that has ballooned to more than $25 billion.
Southern Company’s board has given the green light for its utility Georgia Power to keep pursuing Vogtle’s two nuclear reactors on the Savannah River—the only reactors currently in development in the entire country—despite massive cost overruns and delays, and the bankruptcy of its lead contractor, Westinghouse, in March.
The Georgia Public Service Commission has the final say on the fate of the Vogtle project and is expected to make a decision by February. Meanwhile the PSC’s own analyses show the project may never be viable.
Southern Company’s decision comes as other utilities have pulled the plug on their own ill-conceived nuclear projects: Duke Energy on Tuesday announced it’s dropping plans to build the Levy Nuclear Plant on Florida’s Gulf Coast, just days after canceling plans for its W.S. Lee nuclear plant in South Carolina; and on July 31, Santee Cooper and SCE&G pulled out of their South Carolina-based $14 billion V.C Summer reactor project in the wake the Westinghouse bankruptcy, construction delays, rising costs and falling energy demand.
This leaves Southern Company and Georgia Power as the lone cheerleaders for a massive boondoggle that leaves families and businesses on the hook for expensive, risky nuclear power they don’t need.
Since 2009, Georgia Power customers have been paying upfront for construction costs at Vogtle, before even a single kilowatt hour of energy is generated there.
In Savannah, the city’s 2016 payment of nearly $1 million equals the salaries of 25 rookie police officers. Chatham County’s portion could have funded housing for homeless veterans that was instead rejected due to a lack of funds.
Meanwhile, Oglethorpe Power Corp., a 30 percent owner of the Vogtle project, has asked the Department of Energy for another $1.6 billion in taxpayer money to finish the reactors. The DOE has already guaranteed $8.3 billion in federal, taxpayer-backed loans for the project.
In response to the Vogtle decision, Stephen Stetson, senior representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Georgia, released the following statement:
“The Public Service Commission’s mission is to ensure that Georgia ratepayers get safe, reliable, reasonably priced power—not to rubber stamp a boondoggle that subsidizes a poorly-planned corporate scheme with public money. Commissioners should demand that Georgia Power transition away from dangerous nuclear and fossil fuel-based electric generation and toward a 100 percent clean energy economy that creates jobs, protects the environment, and shields ratepayers from the gross financial risks associated with bad bets like Vogtle.”
Mark Woodall, the Sierra Club’s Georgia Chapter vice chair for conservation, added:
“By hiring more than 70 lobbyists and passing Senate Bill 31 in 2009, Georgia Power has now managed to steal over $2 billion in ratepayer money for financing and profit on Vogtle. Their construction process is a tale of greed and incompetence. This must stop. It’s time to move forward on a clean energy future of solar, wind and energy efficiency with no more money wasted on the dirty, dangerous, risky boondoggle underway at Vogtle.”
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