Georgia Power Mum on Claim that Nuclear Expansion Unneeded
Photograph by Glenn Carroll. With additional reporting by Atlanta Progressive News.
(APN) ATLANTA — Nuclear Watch South (NWS) used Georgia Power’s own data to show that Georgia Power’s energy capacity is overbuilt and that Vogtle 3 and 4 are not needed, at a June 23, 2015 Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) hearing.
The hearing was for the 12th Vogtle Construction Monitoring (VCM) review for Plant Vogtle nuclear power units 3 and 4.
Charts compiled by economist Steven C. Prenovitz using data obtained from Georgia Power annual reports from 2004 to 2014, show capacity utilization has declined from 72 percent to 58 percent and sales are flat for the ten year period.
Georgia Power forecasts were 4.1 percent annual growth in capacity, but growth was only 1.09 percent for the six year period 2008 – 2014.
“It would be cheaper to cancel construction on Plant Vogtle 3 and 4 given the fact they are not needed in a changing market. It is unlikely the cost to cancel the project would exceed the twelve billion dollars left to be spent on the unneeded, outmoded nuclear power plants under construction today,” Glenn Carroll, Director, Nuclear Watch South, testified.
Neither Georgia Power or the PSC have provided any financial calculations to compare the cost of continuing the project to cancelling the project. By not providing a financial comparison are they saying: no matter what the cost, the project is going forward?
Just because billions have already been wasted, does not mean billions more need to be wasted. In other words, having already wasted billions is not a good reason to continue doing so.
“Only by knowing these figures can the PSC make an informed decision about the wisdom of its continued investment of Georgia ratepayers’ money in Georgia Power’s nuclear project,” Carroll testified.
Georgia Power has requested a waiver from filing rebuttal testimony in the 12th VCM now under review by the PSC.
NWS alleged that by asking for the waiver, Georgia Power is basically acknowledging that Vogtle 3 and 4 are not needed.
“You [Georgia Power] had an opportunity to rebut what we said and you chose not to. So we say, you’re building an unnecessary power plant,” Carroll told Atlanta Progressive News.
Atlanta Progressive News asked John O’Brien, Senior Communications Specialist with Georgia Power, why they are not filing a rebuttal testimony to NWS’s claim that Georgia Power overcapacity.
“Georgia Power did not file rebuttal testimony in the 12th VCM as the company believe it has demonstrated, through the VCM process, that $169 million in expenditures for the project during the reporting period should be verified and approved,” O’Brien states in an email response to APN.
“The VCM process continues to work as designed, providing consistent project updates to the Commission and ensuring appropriate oversight of the largest job-producing construction project currently underway in Georgia,” O’Brien continued.
Georgia Power’s attorney, Kevin Greene, sent a letter to Reece McAlister, Executive Secretary, GA PSC, explaining that “Georgia Power Company will not file rebuttal testimony, as is allowed, but not required, by the Procedural and Scheduling Order for the Twelfth Semi-Annual VCM.”
The project is only about twenty-five percent finished. Currently, they are three years behind schedule with two billion dollars in cost overruns.
Every day there is a delay, it costs another two million dollars.
The purpose of the six month VCM review is to help prevent a recurrence of the legendary delays and cost overruns of Vogtle 1 and 2. That project led to the largest consumer rate hike in Georgia’s history with 1,200 percent cost overruns and 14 years behind schedule.
“Georgia Power is using the VMC in a narrow fashion to submit a short report and focus on getting reimbursed for the previous six months expenses,” Carroll told APN
“We say questioning the need for Vogtle is appropriate and we point to the law, Georgia Code O.C.G.A. section 46-3A-6, empowering the PSC to decertify resources that are no longer needed, ” Carroll told APN.
Georgia Power is protected from financial risk, whether it completes, or cancels the project, by having been using public ratepayers’ and taxpayer money.
Georgia Power’s assessment of the economic benefit of Vogtle to consumers is based on a sixty year operating investment.
However, the oldest currently operating reactor in the U.S, has only operated 45 years.
Other old reactors have shut down because to operate beyond forty years is not financially viable, according to NWS testimony
With current prices of solar and wind going down, any new market demand in the future can be better met with renewals.
They are cheaper and faster to deploy with never any worries about nuclear accidents, leaks, nuclear waste storage issues, or environmental contamination. Nor with solar and wind power is there the routine tritium release, which can cause birth defects and cancer in populations downwind and downstream.
The PSC has the authority to cancel Vogtle 3 and 4 reactors at any time, if the certified capacity is no longer needed.
If the PSC does not shut down this endless money pit, they should provide further information to justify the continued construction.
“Georgia Power has completely protected itself from risky nuclear construction by investing only the public’s money. The only protection ratepayers have, comes from the PSC. The evidence is overwhelming that Vogtle 3 and 4 is not needed,” Carroll said.
In a forthcoming article, Atlanta Progressive News is preparing to take a closer look at the total financial costs of Vogtle 3 and 4.