The Newnan Times-Herald

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Utilities, Deal want to keep building nuclear plant


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Sep. 05, 2017 - 5:26 AM

Utilities, Deal want to keep building nuclear plant

courtesy of Plant Vogtle

The steam generator is being lowered into Unit 3 at Plant Vogtle.

ATLANTA (AP) — State regulators are weighing whether to keep building new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, despite delays expected to nearly double their ultimate price tag.

Georgia Power told state regulators recently that its cost to finish the plant is about $4.5 billion, boosting its total to about $8.8 billion.

The company is the main partner in the project near Augusta which includes companies that also supply Newnan Utilities, Coweta-Fayette EMC and Grantville.

It has said the two new reactors, less than half-finished, can be completed by November, 2022 — about two years beyond previous estimates.

They were originally supposed to be done this year, eight years after work began.

The utility said finishing the project after a key contractor's bankruptcy still makes more sense than other alternatives, including abandoning the project, or building a power plant that burns natural gas.

In a statement, Georgia Power called forging ahead "the most economic choice for customers."

"Completing the Vogtle 3 & 4 expansion will enable us to continue delivering clean, safe, affordable and reliable energy to millions of Georgians, both today and in the future," said Georgia Power President Paul Bowers. "The two new units at Plant Vogtle will be in service for 60 to 80 years and will add another low-cost, carbon-free energy source to our already diverse fuel mix."

Gov. Nathan Deal agrees, saying the project is one that will benefit the entire state.

"Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities have made the right decision for our state," he said. "These new units will provide clean and affordable energy to Georgians for more than 60 years while creating 6,000 jobs during project construction and 800 well-paying, permanent ones after."

The Georgia Public Service Commission will have the final say on the fate of the Vogtle expansion. The commission is expected to make a decision by February.

But most on the five-member state board already have indicated they're reluctant to pull the plug after more than $5 billion has been spent on Georgia Power's portion of construction and financing.

Critics of the project quickly condemned Georgia Power's recommendation.

"It is not a good deal for Georgia ratepayers," said Liz Coyle, executive director of Georgia Watch, a consumer advocacy group.

Georgia Power is an affiliated company of Southern Co., which provides power to residents in Georgia, Alabama and several other states.

Georgia Power and Southern Co. have been studying what to do with the troubled project since the late-March bankruptcy of Westinghouse Electric, which designed the reactors and had become lead contractor. Even before the bankruptcy, the project was over three years behind schedule and more than $3 billion over budget.

Georgia Power has been spending about $50 million a month keeping construction going since the bankruptcy.