Georgia Power Suspends Plans on Stewart Nuclear Site
In Georgia Power’s 2016 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) the Public Service Commission (PSC) authorized 99 million dollars for Georgia Power to investigate Stewart County as a potential site to build two more AP1000 nuclear reactors.
At the time there was a lot of public outcry in opposition to any more nuclear reactors, and especially to giving Georgia Power more ratepayer money, in light of the cost overruns with Vogtle Reactors 1 and 2, and now Vogtle 3 and 4.
Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, Jr. was the only Commissioner to oppose forcing ratepayers to pay for this project. He felt that if it was such a good project that Georgia Power should pay for it.
He has filed a motion that will be voted on Tuesday, March 07, 2017.
“I move that the Commission rescind Georgia Power Company’s authorization to record up to $99 million for activities relating to the pursuit of new nuclear generation at the Stewart County site,” the motion states.
“Only Preliminary Survey and Investigation (PS&I) cost recorded through March 31, 2017 shall be recoverable from ratepayers. Cost recorded by the Company to pursue a new nuclear generating plant at the Stewart County site, on and after April 1, 2017, will be at shareholder risk,” the motion states.
“My motion would eliminate the fund and stop it this month, so no more ratepayer money would be spent on the project. My personal opinion is that I think they need to repay the ratepayer,” Commissioner McDonald said to members at the PSC Energy Committee meeting on Thursday, March 02, 2017.
Of the 99 million dollars, 53 million has been spent on the project, leaving 46 million still in the fund.
Other Commissioners felt the 53 million already spent on the site will benefit the future generation of energy, whether it’s an AP1000 nuclear facility, small nuclear reactors, natural gas generation, or renewables.
McDonald is concerned about seniors who are paying now for energy that will not be available until 2030 or 2040 or later.
Many believe the closing of Georgia Power’s nuclear plans at Stewart County was precipitated by news that Toshiba–which owns Westinghouse the contractor for Vogtle 3 and 4–is getting out of the nuclear business due to a 6.1 billion dollar loss because of delays and cost overruns at Vogtle 3 and 4 in Georgia and Plant V.C. Summer in South Carolina.
The international company is in severe turmoil, primarily due to the acquisition of CB&I Stone & Webster, through its U.S. subsidiary Westinghouse.
This U.S. acquisition entangled Toshiba in the nuclear reactor construction projects in Georgia and South Carolina, which are primarily responsible for the six billion dollar loss.
Toshiba’s shares have lost half of their value since December 2016, and Toshiba chairman Shigenori Shiga stepped down in February 2017.
The company has been undergoing a major restructuring, selling off other parts of its technology businesses to other companies to make up for the loss.
“A Westinghouse bankruptcy could nullify all the company’s contracts, rendering meaningless Georgia Power’s assertions that the deal it struck with the company last year protects Georgia Power customers from further cost overruns at Vogtle,” Glenn Carroll, Director, Nuclear Watch South, predicted in a news release last week.
It is doubtful that Vogtle 3 and 4 will meet the deadline for completion by December 2020 now.
“We appreciate that Southern Company has pulled back on the Stewart County nuclear proposal, which was clearly a bad deal for the citizens of Georgia,” Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) said in a statement.
“It’s outrageous that Southern Company has already spent more than $50 million ratepayer dollars on this proposal since the IRP was finalized just seven months ago. Southern Company already has ratepayers paying too much for the over budget and behind schedule Vogtle nuclear units,” Smith said.
“The developing story about the financial meltdown of Toshiba/Westinghouse only means more bad news for Georgia ratepayers. The proposed Stewart County nuclear units were nothing more than ‘financial insult to injury’ on the people of Georgia. We need more oversight on the run away costs at Vogtle, not another blank check in Stewart County,” Smith said.