The trade press publication SNL has reported that Southern Company and the U.S. Department of Energy have agreed to extend negotiations over the conditional loan guarantee for $8.3 billion for the construction of two new reactors at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia until the end of the year. The conditional nuclear loan guarantee, the award of which was announced by President Obama himself in Feb. 2010, was supposed to be finalized 90 days after the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the Vogtle 3 & 4 combined Construction and Operating License Applications (COLAs). On Feb. 9, 2012, by a 4 to 1 vote (with NRC Chairman Jaczko dissenting), NRC approved both COLAs. As Jaczko stated in his dissent, approval of Vogtle 3 & 4 without requiring that Fukushima lessons learned be applied was "as if Fukushima never even happened." In late 2011, NRC also approved the Toshiba-Westinghouse AP-1000 (a so-called Advanced Passive, 1,100 Megawatt-electric reactor) design proposed for Vogtles 3 & 4, despite lingering safety concerns identified by an environmental coalition and its expert witness, nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates.
The stumbling block appears to be the level of "credit subsidy fee" the Department of Energy (and White House Office of Management and Budget, OMB) will charge Southern Co. for the taxpayer-backed nuclear loan guarantee. Documents recently obtained by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) reveal that in 2009, DOE told project partner Georgia Power it would be charged a credit subsidy fee of $17 to 52 million. That's not much skin the game, when federal taxpayers face the loss of $8.3 billion if the project defaults on its loan repayment. The Solyndra solar loan guarantee scandal involved the loss of $535 million by federal taxpayers -- a mere 1/15th the amount of taxpayer funding at risk on Vogtle 3 & 4.
In October 2010, the Obama OMB demanded an $880 million credit subsidy fee from Constellation Nuclear of Baltimore, in return for a $7.5 billion nuclear loan guarantee for the Calvert Cliffs 3 reactor (a French Areva EPR, so-called Evolutionary Power Reactor of 1,600 MW-e) targeted at Maryland's Chesapeake Bay shoreline. Constellation was unwilling to risk that much of its own money, and not only walked away from Calvert Cliffs 3, but from the new reactor biz altogether.
Given the major delays in finalization of the Vogtle 3 & 4 nuclear loan guarantee -- not to mention construction cost overruns and construction schedule delays that have already started piling up before the real work has even begun -- this entire proposal is very vulnerable to being blocked.
Please contact President Obama and his Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Urge them both to prevent "Solyndra on Steroids" -- the loss of $8.3 billion in the financially (as well as radiologically) risky Vogtle 3 & 4 new reactor scheme! Urge them to cancel the Vogtle nuclear loan guarantee!