Utility wants to finish new nuclear units in Georgia

Utility wants to finish new nuclear units in Georgia

Despite higher costs, further delays, Georgia Power says new reactors should be built

August 31st, 2017 by Wire Service and Staff Report in Breaking News

FILE - In this June 13, 2014, file photo, a new cooling tower for a nuclear power plant reactor that's under construction stands near the two operating reactors at Plant Vogtle power plant in Waynesboro, Ga., operated by Westinghouse Electric Co., the U.S. nuclear unit of Japan's Toshiba Corp. The future of Toshiba is imperiled over ballooning costs at its U.S. nuclear unit Westinghouse, which filed for bankruptcy protection last month. Behind a great Japanese brand’s fall from grace is a fateful decision to bank on an expensive overseas purchase. And no one had calculated on a nuclear catastrophe. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

Photo by John Bazemore

Georgia Power Co. told state regulators today that it should keep building new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle even  though delays are expected to nearly double the costs of finishing the new units.

Southern Nuclear, which is building the new Westinghouse AP1000 reactors for Georgia Power, Dalton Utilities, Oglethorpe Power Corp., and the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, said in its filing today that Georgia Power's cost to finish the plant is about $4.5 billion, boosting its total to about $8.8 billion to finish the two reactors by 2022.

They were originally supposed to be done this year, eight years after they began. 

In a statement, the company called the recommendation "the most economic choice for customers," over abandoning the project or switching to a natural gas-fired power plant.

"Completing the Vogtle 3 & 4 expansion will enable us to continue delivering clean, safe, affordable and reliable energy to millions of Georgians, both today and in the future,"Georgia Power President Paul Bowers said in a statement. "The two new units at Plant Vogtle will be in service for 60 to 80 years and will add another low-cost, carbon-free energy source to our already diverse fuel mix."

Gov. Nathan Deal today praised the recommendation of Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4 co-owners to complete construction of a new clean energy source for Georgians.

"I'm extremely pleased to learn the co-owners of Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4 have recommended completion of construction," said Deal.

But critics of the Vogtle project quickly condemned Georgia Power's recommendation to keep going on the project, whose costs have soared with each year of delays.

"It is not a good deal for Georgia ratepayers," said Liz Coyle, executive director of Georgia Watch, a consumer advocacy group.  "I believe it is clearly uneconomic, and it is the (state utility regulator's) responsibility to require the least-cost option."

Georgia Power and its parent firm, Southern Company, have been studying what to do with the troubled project since the late-March bankruptcy of a key contractor, Westinghouse Electric. Even before the bankruptcy, the project was over three years behind schedule and more than $3 billion over budget.

Georgia Power has been spending about $50 million a month keeping construction going since the bankruptcy.

In South Carolina, utilities building similar AP1000 reactors decided this summer not to finish the new units at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant following the Westinghouse bankruptcy.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, which originally planned to build the Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at its unfinished Bellefonte plant in Alabama, abandoned their plans for the new reactors a decade ago.

The Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, located near Waynesboro in eastern Georgia near the South Carolina border, is jointly owned by Georgia Power (45.7%), Oglethorpe Power Corporation (30%), Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (22.7%) and Dalton Utilities (1.6%).