Construction Costs

Construction costs for new reactors are unpredictable, extreme and continue to rise. Current estimates run as high as $12 billion per reactor but threaten to further sky-rocket, prompting the nuclear industry either to cancel plans for new plants or look to taxpayer-funded federal loan guarantees to cover the cost.



AJC's Kempner: Georgia underdogs confront power, get smacked

Matt Kempner, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s (AJC) "sometimes irreverent business columnist," credits a private citizen watch-dog on the Georgia Public Service Commission, Steven Prenovitz, with nagging him until he finally woke up. Kempner then began taking seriously the cost overruns and schedule delays with the construction of the two Toshiba-Westinghouse Advanced Passive, 1,100 Megawatt-electric (AP1000s) atomic reactors -- Vogtle 3 & 4 in Waynesboro, GA, on the banks of the Savannah River, the border with South Carolina. The result has been comprehenisve coverage in the AJC, ever since.

Kempner's latest column covers the GA PSC smacking of underdogs -- ratepayer and environmental watch-dogs who have long warned about Vogtle 3 & 4's financial (not to mention, ultimately, radioactive) risks, for both GA electricity consumers, as well as federal taxpayers. The GA "Public Service Commission" (which has long served the public up for dinner to the nuclear power industry) just approved continuation of construction at Vogtle 3 & 4 -- and the related gouging of GA ratepayers.


No excuse for secrecy

Charleston, South Carolina's The Post and Courier ran this editorial about the revelation of a secret report by Bechtel re: "one of the state’s costliest-ever economic disasters" -- the cancellation of two proposed new reactors, for which ratepayers had already been charged billions of dollars.

The editorial focuses on a report by Bechtel that the nuclear utilities building Summer Units 2 & 3 had denied even existed -- until they admitted its existence, under oath. But the utilities are still withholding the document they had previously lied did not exist, claiming trade secrecy, from the governor, state legislators, and other investigators.

In an incredible act of insubordination, one of the utilities, Santee Cooper, a state agency, has refused to provide the document even to the governor, whom it serves.

The editorial calls for transparency and accountability, given the billions of dollars of ratepayer money at stake.



Other States Should Heed Lessons of SC Fiasco: “Clawback” of Nuclear Advance Fees Urged; Attention Now Shifts to Need for Similar Shutdown Action of Vogtle Project.


See the full press release, issued by Scott Stapf of the Hastings Group, featuring statements by Peter Bradford (former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner, as well as former chairman of the New York and Maine utility regulatory commissions); leading nuclear economist, Dr. Mark Cooper (senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School); and Dr. Stephan A. Smith, executive director, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE).


Ratepayers and taxpayers 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.


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.