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PSC votes to continue Vogtle construction on artificial life support threatening Georgia economy

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE)Georgia Public Service Commission chairman Stan Wise revealed earlier that the political fix was in on the vote to extend the construction of Plant Vogtle Units 3 & 4 telling a local radio station the day before the commission vote. “This commission will not say, ‘Do not continue this plant.” The PSC granted Georgia Power's proposal for an increased cost of $12.2 billion and an added delay of 29 months to 2021 and 2022. Even these estimates are likely to prove grossly inadequate to chase after completion of the project. Votgle 3 &4 was the first U.S. new reactor project to be approved for construction in 2012. It was originally scheduled for operation in 2017.

The PSC vote gives new meaning and absurdity to “pouring good money after bad” with the inestimable proportions of mismanagement and cost overrun that the continuation of Vogtle construction portends for Georgia's economy.

The vote came despite the backdrop of the bankruptcy of Westinghouse/Toshiba stemming from the financial risk carried by the astronomically expensive design and predictably mismanged construction of the two AP1000 pressurized water reactors.  Even the PSC’s own staff had warned through well-founded analysis “that the completion of the project is no longer economic on a to-go (forward looking) basis given the additional costs and schedule delays.”  The staff further concluded that if Georgia Power is allowed to continue construction the purposed financial conditions should be “modified” so that the utility and its investors bear the risk and not passed on through advance charges to ratepayers. A $1.2 billion penalty is inculded in the decision on what Georgia Power can collect from future ratepayers but the decision but hardly punitive considering the overall bailout saddled to ratepayers. 

Advancing chronic high construction costs to ratepayers and eventually higher electric rates for Georgians inevitably undermines the state and region’s economy. 

The historical failure of the nuclear power industry to manage the cost-of-completion and time-to completion has been the writing on the wall now for decades. An industry tens of billions of dollars over budget and many years behind scheduled first grabbed the Forbes business journal 1983 cover story “Nuclear Follies.” Nothing has changed. The first two units at Vogtle had colossal construction cost overruns which jumped from $660 million to nearly $9 billion before becoming operational. The PSC vote essentially writes a blank check for a new chapter in the most expensive and wasteful way to boil water for steam generated electricity.

The state regulatory decision to stumble on seeking the completion of the Vogtle 3 and 4 nuclear power station keeps the last vestige of new reactor construction alive in the U.S.. The nation’s only other new reactor construction for two Westinghouse AP1000 units at the V.C. Summer site in South Carolina was suspended in July 2017 because of unaffordable cost overruns and an unpredictably delayed completion schedule.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) has put out its statement of disbelief and defiance to the state regulators’ decision. The fight for the democratization of energy continues as well.