Georgia regulators to decide Vogtle's fate in February
- The Georgia Public Service Commission approved a scheduling order to set a series of hearings on the Vogtle nuclear facility's construction, which will decide its fate.
- Clean energy and consumer advocates criticized the decision, saying the plant's spiraling costs makes the project not in consumers' best interest.
- Southern Company, Georgia Power's parent company, filed its recommendation last month to finish construction on two new nuclear reactors at the Vogtle nuclear facility. Total costs will likely top $25 billion and could reach more than $27 billion, Southern Co. told the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this year.
The fight over Vogtle continues as regulators schedule a series of hearings beginning in November over the project's spending.
Consumer and clean energy advocates criticized the decision and expressed fears the cost risk will pass onto ratepayers' shoulders.
“By the time the PSC finally makes a decision on whether or not continuing the project is in the best interest of Georgia Power customers, another half a billion dollars will be sunk in construction costs," Liz Coyle, director of nonprofit consumer advocacy organization Georgia Watch, told Savannah Morning News.
Nuclear construction firm Westinghouse Electric Company's bankruptcy threw chaos into the United States' nuclear industry, resulting in utilities abandoning projects or pulling plugs on proposed ones. In light of these events, the fate of Southern Co.'s Vogtle expansion plans remains in doubt.
Last month, regulators appeared to signal support for the project after voting on an order requiring the Southern Co. subsidiary to address more than a dozen issues, including construction schedule, costs and whether or not the Commission should greenlight more revisions. Georgia Power addressed those concerns as part of its latest construction monitoring report filed last month.
Georiga Power has indicated in the past it expects to pay between $9.8 billion and $10.9 billion for its 45.7% stake in the Vogtle plant, taking into account loan guarantees from Toshiba, Westinghouse's parent company. Oglethorpe Power Co. which owns 30% of the facility, requested $1.6 billion in additional support from the Department of Energy.
The PSC has approved $222 million in expenditures for Georgia Power. Now the utility must show its spending on the project is "reasonable" before stakeholders and the PSC. A final decision whether to complete the project is expected in February.
Vogtle's challenges come as utilities pulled the plug on several nuclear projects following Westinghouse's demise. As Southern grappled with its decision to move forward with construction, another nuclear expansion project was cut short after its utilities decided the costs would be too high to continue construction.
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