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CWIP

CWIP, or Construction Work in Progress, is a law, fortunately existent only in a handful of U.S. states, that allows a utility to charge ratepayers higher rates to cover future costs of a yet-to-be-constructed reactor, even if that reactor is never built.

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Friday
Mar312017

Georgia and South Carolina ratepayers could lose many billions of dollars in return for zero electricity, if Westinghouse bankruptcy leads to cancellation of four partially constructed atomic reactors

Construction Work in Progress (CWIP), also known as advance cost recovery, is illegal in most states.

It was outlawed by popular referendum in Missouri in 1976, for example. In Indiana, CWIP's illegality led to the cancellation of partially constructed atomic reactors, when would-be nuclear utilities were busted in court by Citizen Action Coalition for trying to do it anyway, despite its illegality.

But the state governments of Georgia and South Carolina decided to make CWIP legal, in order to force ratepayers to fund construction of four Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 reactors: Vogtle Units 3 & 4 in Georgia, and Summer Units 2 & 3 in South Carolina. CWIP was made legal in South Carolina by the Base Load Review Act.

But Westinghouse Nuclear declared bankruptcy on March 29th, due to the massive cost overruns (in the billions of dollars), due to years-long construction delays, at the four reactors. There is a distinct possibility that all four reactors could be cancelled.

Already, after nine rate hikes in just the past several years, nearly 20% of South Carolina ratepayers' payments on their electric bills go toward the construction of Summer 2 & 3. If Summer 2 and/or 3 are cancelled, ratepayers will have invested billions of dollars, without receiving so much as one kilowatt-hour of electricity.

But at least if the two reactors are cancelled, the people of South Carolina won't face decades of "routine" radioactivity releases, as well as the risk of catastrophic releases of hazardous radioactivity, due to reactor core meltdowns, or high-level radioactive waste storage pool fires.

Vogtle 3 & 4 are also being financed through CWIP, through a surcharge on ratepayer bills, a veritable nuclear tax. In addition, Vogtle 3 & 4 were awarded $8.3 billion of federal taxpayer-backed nuclear loan guarantees, with zero credit subsidy fee. This means, if the Vogtle 3 & 4 construction project defaults on its loan repayment, that entire amount -- 15 times more taxpayer money than was lost in the Solyndra solar loan guarantee default -- could be lost to the U.S. Treasury.

For more information on the Westinghouse Nuclear bankruptcy declaration, and its implication for the ratepayers of Georgia and South Carolina (as well as for U.S. taxpayers, given the Vogtle 3 & 4 nuclear loan guarantees), please see Beyond Nuclear's Loan Guarantees website section.

Thursday
Mar302017

Decision to abandon South Carolina nuclear construction project could come in next 30 days

Thanks to Scott Stapf of the Hastings Group, for his tweet above, which points to the World Nuclear News article "Scana to evaluate Summer options."

The Summer 2 & 3 new reactors -- Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000s -- are being financed by Construction Work in Progress (CWIP), also known as advance cost recovery, made legal in South Carolina by the Base Load Review Act.

CWIP is illegal in most states.

Already, after nine rate hikes in just the past several years, nearly 20% of South Carolina ratepayers' payments on their electric bills go toward the construction of Summer 2 & 3. If Summer 2 and/or 3 are cancelled, ratepayers will have invested billions of dollars, without receiving so much as one kilowatt-hour of electricity.

But at least if the two reactors are cancelled, the people of South Carolina won't face decades of "routine" radioactivity releases, as well as the risk of catastrophic releases of hazardous radioactivity due to reactor core meltdowns or high-level radioactive waste storage pool fires.

Thursday
Jan052017

How Georgia officials pantsed ratepayers over the holidays

Mr. Burns, Nuclear Scrooge of Simpsons infamy, wasn't stingy when it came to handing out "Atomic Fireballs" as a stand in for the radioactive waste the nuclear industry would like the public to "consent" to "swallowing," during a protest outside NRC's "Nuke Waste Con Game" public comment mtg. in Perrysburg, OH, 2013. While Radioactive Man is on the take, re: the Atomic Fireballs, it is Planet Earth, and all future generations of all living things, on the receiving end of the subsidized high-level radioactive waste generation, as at Vogtle 3 & 4 in GA.As reported by Matt Kempner in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial:

...The Georgia Public Service Commission — a body of five officials that most voters don’t even realize existsyanked Georgia consumers’ pants down to their ankles. One thing they exposed in the process: a big gap in the state’s system for regulating a powerful business monopoly.

It took PSC commissioners less than six minutes, without debate, to unanimously slap customers of Georgia Power with responsibility to pay for billions of dollars in cost overruns tied to the for-profit company’s expansion of nuclear Plant Vogtle. The PSC allowed only the barest of reductions in Georgia Power’s profit margins. Even that is a temporary measure compared to decades the company is likely to be pulling in fully caffeinated profits in this arrangement.

But ignore that, because the PSC also ordered that a note be inserted in Georgia Power bills to declare, essentially, what a deal you’re getting.

They decided to include this message because, well, if you just look at your Georgia Power bill you won’t actually notice anything that looks like savings.

In reality, the PSC’s Dec. 20 vote didn’t give Georgia Power and its parent the Southern Company the entire moon, just most of it.

That’s not the way PSC commissioner Stan Wise saw it.

“It’s an extraordinary balance of interests of all the parties,” Wise said during the hearing.

Some others, like consumer advocacy and environmental group leaders, disagreed. But the most troubling issue is how weak of an effort the state put forth to actually do its job... [emphasis added]

Similarly, it took the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners less than a minute to rubber-stamp a 20-year license extension at Fermi 2 in Michigan, on Dec. 23, 2015. The NRC Commissioners "Affirmation Session" took place in an NRC HQ building largely devoid of human beings -- everyone had already taken off for the holiday break. Nevermind that Fermi 2 is a Fukushima Daiichi twin desighed General Electric Mark I boiling water reactor. We've all seen what THOSE are capable of!

And the radioactive Grinches who stole Christmas, at the Vogtle 3 & 4 new reactors construction site in Waynesboro, GA, and at Fermi 2, laughed all the way to the bank.

Saturday
Aug292015

"Gas deal could signal Southern’s drift from new nuclear projects"

As reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, a $12 billion deal merging Southern Co. and the AGL natural gas utility could mark the end of the "nuclear renaissance" for Southern.

The article reports:

This deal signals that “the nuclear renaissance is over for Southern,” said Robert “Bobby” Brown, a regulatory lawyer and former member of Georgia’s utility regulator, the Public Service Commission.

The article goes on:

The Atlanta company is building two new nuclear power units at its Vogtle site in Georgia and an advanced-technology coal-fired plant in Mississippi. Both those projects are years behind schedule and have resulted in billions of dollars of cost overruns that will be born by Southern’s shareholders or customers, or both. (emphasis added)

The Obama administration awarded Southern and its partners at Vogtle 3 & 4 a whopping $8.3 billion in federal taxpayer-back loans and loan guarantees. If the project defaults on its loan repayment, federal taxpayers would be left holding the bag.

That's 15 times more money than was lost to the U.S. Treasury by the Solyndra solar loan guarantee default. And Vogtle 3 & 4's risk of default is higher than Solyndra's was determined to be when the solar loan guarantee was awarded.

In addition to taxpayer subsidies, Vogtle 3 & 4 has been financed by "Construction Work in Progress" -- surcharges on ratepayers' electricity bills that are illegal in most states.

Tuesday
Aug042015

"Duke Energy spending on Lee nuclear plant remains slow"

As reported by John Downey in Charlotte Business Journal, Duke Nuclear's spending on "pre-construction" activities at its proposed new Lee nuclear power plant in Gaffney, SC, has been relatively low in the past couple years -- if $3-4 million per month can be regarded as "low." After all, significant energy efficiency, and even renewable energy projects, such as wind power and solar photo-voltaics, could be built for that kind of money!

Duke Nuclear had originally proposed firing up Lee Unit 1 in 2017. But now initial start up has been postponed till 2024 at the earliest.

Duke proposes to build two Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, just as is happening at Vogtle 3 & 4 in GA, and at Summer 2 & 3 in SC. Both the Vogtle and the Summer new reactor construction projects are billions of dollars over-budget, and years behind schedule.

Duke has not yet charged its $450 million in "pre-construction" activities to its SC rate-base, but it could under SC's generous "Construction Work in Progress" (CWIP) law.

Already, South Carolina Electric & Gas and SCANA have charged their SC ratepayers more than half a dozen rate increases, entirely devoted to CWIP costs on building Summer 2 & 3, with the SC public service commission's blessing. SCE&G and SCANA have not applied for federal nuclear loan guarantees, however.

Vogtle 3 & 4 has slogged ahead, thanks not only to CWIP surcharges on GA ratepayer electricity bills, but also compliments of an $8.3 billion federal taxpayer-backed loan guarantee, and loan. President Obama and Energy Secretary Moniz have provided that massive loan guarantee, and loan, without charging Southern Nuclear and its partners a single penny of credit subsidy fee, to protect federal taxpayers at least to some small extent, should Southern default on its loan repayment.

$8.3 billion is 15 times more federal taxpayer funding than was lost to the U.S. Treasury at Solyndra, when that solar loan guarantee repayment defaulted. But Vogtle 3 & 4 are at a significantly higher risk of defaulting, than was Solyndra when the solar loan guarantee was awarded.

More than $10 billion in nuclear loan guarantee funding remains available, for projects like Lee 1 & 2, or Fermi 3 in MI, to apply for. Lee 1 & 2 still needs COLA (combined Construction and Operating License Application) approval by NRC, something that Fermi 3 already won on May 1, 2015. However, Beyond Nuclear and allies continue to challenge the Fermi 3 license, now by appealing to the federal courts. One of the appeals by the environmental coalition is a challenge to NRC's Orwellian permission to grant the go ahead for "pre-construction" activities at new reactor construction sites, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.