PSC Staff Admits New Nuclear Reactors May Be Uneconomical at 16th VCM Hearing
(APN) ATLANTA — At the Georgia Public Service Commission’s (PSC) 16th Vogtle Construction Monitoring (VCM) hearing on June 29, 2017, the PSC’s staff reported, for the first time, that it may be uneconomical to continue developing two new nuclear reactors–Vogtle Units 3 and 4–at Plant Vogtle.
During cross examination, the PSC staff hypothesized several outcomes for Vogtle and the word “cancel” was spoken out loud in public.
Philip Hayet, PSC staff consultant, expects more delays and increased costs on the part of Georgia Power; and in one scenario, he indicates that finishing the project may not be a good idea for customers financially.
No one will know the future of Vogtle 3 and 4 for at least three more months or until Georgia Power releases the latest cost estimates, time schedule, and information on who will finish the construction now that their main contractor, Westinghouse, has filed bankruptcy.
Georgia Power will request the Commission to approve 222 million dollars spent on Vogtle in the last six months of 2016.
As usual, the PSC will likely rubber stamp the Company’s request to pour more of our consumer money down this bottomless Vogtle Vortex.
In the case of Vogtle 3 and 4, Georgia Power ratepayers pay the utility in advance through the CWIP (Construction Work in Progress) fee on Georgia Power bills. The PSC then certifies the expenses after the fact.
The project, after eight years and over ten billion dollars spent and not one kilowatt of power generated, has only completed construction on 32 percent of the reactors. They were originally scheduled for completion in 2016 and 2017.
Previously, Glenn Carroll, Nuclear Watch South, and Steve Prenovitz, Concerned Ratepayers of Georgia, have testified using data and statistics from Georgia Power’s own annual reports to show that energy usage has not grown as projected and the nuclear plants are not needed.
Carroll and Prenovitz, legal intervenors, pushed the Commissioners’ pro-nuclear buttons with this too-hot-to-handle information, which they try to ignore or suppress, and which Georgia Power has not refuted.
Robert Searfoss, with Aging Raging Rate Payers (ARRP) agrees that Georgia Power’s own numbers shows that there is not a need for these reactors, saying, if they don’t like what has been submitted, they can “argue that their own numbers are wrong.”
Unlike previous PSC meetings, at this meeting there were two State Troopers posted at one door and two Capitol Police officers posted at the other door during public comment time.
Commissioner Tim Echols was the Chairman of the meeting and expressed concern about people possibly using profanity or making a mockery out of the meeting.
But Commissioners have made a mockery of the ratemaking process for years, as they continue to approve billions of wasted dollars on Vogtle as “prudent.”
In public comment, Barbara Antonoplos described the Vogtle 3 and 4 debacle as a “theater of the absurd.”
“Where the more the laborers work, the more behind they get! Where, as more people are paid for idle time, more people are hired to manage them!” she said.
“Where the more of a failure the whole enterprise is, the more money The Company makes! Where, in the spending of those billions of dollars, no accurate and meaningful construction schedule has ever existed!” she continued.
“Where, in the face of all this, The Company emphatically maintains that the project is well managed! And where, despite warning after warning after warning, you all say, ‘Nobody could have seen this coming!’” she said.
Annie Laura Howard Stephens, who was born on the Savannah River in Burke County, told about her family who lives in the shadow of Vogtle cooling towers in Shell Bluff, Georgia.
“My daddy, mother, sister, brother and other people in the community have died as the cancer rate increased in our community,” Stephens said.
“The risks to the environment far outweigh the benefits from nuclear power,” Minnie Ruffin, Grandmothers for Peace, testified, adding that life-threatening nuclear waste will have to be kept safe for tens of thousands of years and no one knows how to do that.
Ruffin considered the Westinghouse bankruptcy “divine intervention” to allow the PSC time to reconsider their position and shut down Vogtle 3 and 4.
John Noel, founder and president of Energy + Environment, a energy efficiency company and Democratic candidate for PSC District 3 seat to challenge Republican incumbent Chuck Eaton spoke during public comment.
“Why do we need new generation when we are not seeing growth? Energy efficiency is the cheapest and best form of new energy development,” Noel said.
“It is your job to look after the ratepayers not the utility companies that come before you and that has not been happening,” Noel said admonishing the Commissioners.
A study from the Southern Environmental Law Center also shows that the demand for electricity grew less than Georgia Power projected when Vogtle was approved.
Investments in solar and energy efficiency would be less risky, more affordable, and quicker the report concludes.
Others commented that the nuclear industry could not exist without a cap on their liabilities, billions in federal welfare to the industry, and an anti-consumer forced nuclear tax on customers to pay in advance for Vogtle 3 and 4.
Georgia Grassroots Video has posted to Youtube a video report on the public testimony at the PSC hearing: