They were two projects slated to lead the way on the nuclear Renaissance, one in Georgia and one across the river in South Carolina. But Monday came the announcement that two utilities building two new nuclear reactors in the Palmetto State are shutting down the project because it’s too expensive to continue.
That prompted some like Stephen Smith from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy to ask what about Plant Vogtle in Georgia?
“With the failure of Westinghouse and the collapse of the other project and the fact that this risk continues to go up, it screams for a pause and a new evaluation going forward,” he said.
At Vogtle, two new reactors were actually supposed to be completed by now. Both the Georgia and South Carolina projects have been struggling since word that Westinghouse, their main contractor designer of the AP 1000 reactor, had filed for bankruptcy in March. .
“And so at some point we believe yes they need to pull the plug,” said Smith. “South Carolina took a hard look, I know it’s not an easy decision, I know there ae jobs on the line but ultimately it is what’s in the best interest of the rate payers.”
Since 2010, Georgia Power rate payers have been footing the bill for financing costs on the project. It’s said average customers have paid about $100 each year. “And that’s what unfair here is that they really do not have a good handle on what is it going to take to complete this project and this decision to go forward puts all the risk not on Georgia Power shareholders, it puts all the risk is on us as rate payers.,” said Smith. ” In South Carolina, they took their rate payers off the hook yesterday by basically saying we’re not gong to continue to pursue this high risk project but we don’t have that same kind of leadership in Georgia.”
Monday, Stan Wise, the chairman of the Georgia Public Service Comssission issued this statement after word of the South Carolina project’s cancellation:
The dissimilarities of these projects should be recognized before making any suppositions on whether construction will continue at Plant Vogtle based on decisions made in South Carolina.
First, the rate impact is spread across over three times as many customers at Georgia Power Company versus South Carolina Electric & Gas (GPC has 2.4 million customers to 700k at SCE&G). Second, the overall rate impact of the Plant Vogtle expansion in Georgia of less than 5% thus far has been significantly lower than the current 18% residential customer impact reported by SCE&G. Third, the Toshiba parental guarantee, which reduces the total customer impact, is $3.7 billion for the Vogtle project versus $2.2 billion for the Summer project. Last, there are four co-owners underwriting the Georgia effort, whereas Santee Cooper is the only co-owner in South Carolina. These factors suggest the Plant Vogtle project may be in a better position to move forward than the project in South Carolina.
Recognizing the Vogtle co-owners are spending over $100 million each month as the project review continues, I share the concern of my colleagues about the potential risk to ratepayers as each month passes. Accordingly, at the August 10th Energy Committee I intend to ask my colleagues, staff and Georgia Power to develop a schedule that calls for a final decision before the end of the year on whether the project will continue and, if that decision is to move forward with construction, to approve changes to the schedule and cost (not a ruling on prudency).”
Georgia Power also issued these comments:
The V.C. Summer and Vogtle projects are unique and different in many ways. Our agreements with Westinghouse and Toshiba remain in place and construction continues at the Vogtle site under the new service agreement finalized last week.
Georgia Power continues work with the project’s Co-owners (Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities) to complete full-scale schedule and cost-to-complete analyses of the project. Once Georgia Power’s assessment is completed in August, we will work with the Georgia Public Service Commission to determine the best path forward for Georgia customers.