What will Westinghouse Bankruptcy mean for completion of Plant Vogtle reactors?

If the date of April 1, 2017 rings any bells for you in terms of nuclear energy, it may be that two new reactors planned at Plant Vogtle were both set to be on line that day. By the way, that’s Saturday, but the reactors are far from finished. As a matter of fact, Sara Barczak from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy says they’re only 36 percent complete. Georgia Power offers a different figure, about 60 percent complete. Still, all sides agree that the project is not close to the finish line and is now over the original budget by about $2 Billion.

Now add the last problem and it’s a big one.  Westinghouse (owned by Toshiba) which was responsible for designing and building the reactors filed for bankruptcy this week. In February, Toshiba indicated it was billions in the red because of the nuclear projects.

“It’s really just a huge mess to be honest and with the bankruptcy filing, we are now in the worse case scenario,” says Sara Barczak from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, “There has been a lot of money sunk in already for this project and ‘should we throw good money after bad’ is literally the multi billion dollar question,”

Georgia Power has two partners in the reactors projects, but is paying for nearly 50 percent of the cost. Barczak says Georgia Power customers have already spent $1.8 billion dollars in financing costs with nothing to show for it. “It’s a really frustrating situation from a consumers’ perspective,” she said. “You’re paying for something that literally at this point may be a big old question mark if it’s even completed,”

Stan Wise, the chair of the Georgia Public Service Commission acknowledges it’s more bad news but is trying to look ahead. “I’m not confident but I am hopeful we’re going to work toward an end. Georgia Power has partners in this project, these groups are going to have to work together to determine what the best outcome is,” Wise told me.

He says the PSC still has a goal and that is to see the reactors finished. “That is the only way that the billions already spent will make sense for consumers,” he said.

Wise did say that the utility is apparently considering many optiions. “What we heard today was potentially what could happen. One (option) is to continue. One (option) is to stop or abandon the project or maybe even convert to another fuel. But again, these outcomes are not the most appropriate and the one that is- is that these projects are completed,” he said.

Barczak says despite hopes of completion, delays simply mean costs continue to mount and that consumers may end up holding the bag for those additional expenses. Wise didn’t necessarily disagree but says that is not what the PSC will be working toward in finding a solution.

In a statement Georgia Power told us it plans to do all it can to complete the project.

Georgia Power and the project’s other Georgia-based Co-owners have been preparing for the possibility of a Westinghouse bankruptcy filing.

While we are working with Westinghouse to maintain momentum at the site, we are also currently conducting a full-scale schedule and cost-to-complete assessment to determine what impact Westinghouse’s bankruptcy will have on the project and we will work with the Georgia Public Service Commission and the Co-owners to determine the best path forward. We will continue to take every action available to us to hold Westinghouse and Toshiba accountable for their financial responsibilities under the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) agreement and the parent guarantee.

Jason Hawkins,
Georgia Power

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