Plant Vogtle, PSC Staff Consultant says project may not be “economic” to complete

FILE - In this April 28, 2010, file photo, steam rises from the cooling towers of nuclear reactors at Georgia Power's Plant Vogtle, in Waynesboro, Ga. Southern Co. is buying AGL Resources Inc. for approximately $7.93 billion, the company announced, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, which would create the second-biggest utility company in the United States, by customer base. Mary Ann Chastain, File AP Photo

WAYNESBORO, Ga. (WSAV) — The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) is meeting Thursday to consider continued funding approval for construction (thus far) on Plant Vogtle reactors 3 and 4. Under consideration is approving about $222 million in costs already incurred by Georgia Power.

But for the most part, the thoughts of many at today’s hearing surround the future of the project. Georgia Power announced yesterday is it assuming control of the project by late July, meaning it will manage construction, etc., after taking over from Westinghouse which has gone bankrupt. Westinghouse (whose parent company is now Toshiba) is the designer and builder of the AP1000 reactor necessary to the project.

A news release from Georgia Power says “the scope of the service agreement includes engineering, procurement and licensing support from Westinghouse, as well as access to Westinghouse intellectual property needed for the project.”

Georgia Power’s news release also indicated that “it is working to complete a full-scale schedule and cost-to-complete analysis and will work with the Georgia Public Service Commission to determine the best path forward for customers.”

Meanwhile, a report from the PSC’s own consultants (Philip Hayet and Lane Kollen, hired for continued evaluation of the Vogtle project) indicates that more delays might take place along with increased costs and that in some scenarios, finishing the project isn’t necessarily a good economical choice for customers. The report indicates there a worse case scenario could see a 36 month delay (project completion estimated in June of 2022 and June of 2023, six years behind schedule) and possibly an additional $3 billion in costs. One part of the report reads “With a 36-month delay and $3 billion in added capital costs, even with (certain stipulations in place) it would be uneconomic to complete the Vogtle Project.”

The report goes on to say another scenario creates even more uncertainty for rate payers but also said “once the Company completes its evaluation and provides its results and work papers to Staff, Staff will review and develop its own economic analysis.”

Georgia Power tells us that some of this report is hypothetical. It also tells us that Toshiba, the parent company of Westinghouse has guaranteed their work per an agreement which protects customers and guarantees that Toshiba will pay $3.68 billion back to co-owners.

Meanwhile, watchdog groups continue to call for the cancellation of what some are now calling the “Vogtle Vortex.” The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has estimated the project cost (this includes costs for Georgia Power and two partners) could continue to climb from what has been estimated at about $14 billion to a staggering number of $29 billion. This is SACE’s own estimate and not verified by any PSC numbers or staff.

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