VC Summer audit raised in Georgia hearings over fate of Vogtle nuclear project
A suite of documents related to an audit for the South Carolina VC Summer nuclear facility appeared in regulatory hearings on the fate of the Vogtle nuclear project. Southern Co. officials were repeatedly asked in testimony Tuesday whether the same problems plaguing VC Summer appeared throughout the construction of Vogtle.
The Georgia Public Service Commission on Monday began four days of hearings on the fate of the Vogtle nuclear project with testimony from Georgia Power Chairman, President and CEO Paul Bowers, who recommended continuation of the embattled project.
Bowers’ testimony was consistent with Georgia Power’s PSC filing in late August, but Bowers cited two subsequent events to bolster the case for moving forward, which included Toshiba's first loan payment of roughly $370 million and a $3.686 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy to mitigate risks of construction.
Bowers, speaking on behalf of all the Vogtle project owners, which are Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power Power, MEAG and the Dalton Utilities, testified that the partners recommend that construction of Vogtle continue despite the high costs and long delays and the March bankruptcy of Westinghouse.
The Vogtle project was originally estimated to cost $14 billion and be online in 2016. The project is now estimated to cost as much as $25 billion and be online in 2021-22.
According to testimony Tuesday, stakeholders questioned Southern Co., the parent company of Georgia Power, over a 2016 audit conducted at the VC Summer nuclear that revealed the owners of the facility were warned that development was not likely to be successful.
The Post & Courier reported Southern Vice President of construction Mark Rauckhorst said the company wasn't aware of the audit until recently, and therefore excluded it from its testimony.
The cohesiveness of the partners could be also be challenged, depending on the outcome of the PSC hearings. On Nov. 2 the Vogtle owners amended their ownership agreement, calling for additional owner approvals under certain circumstances.
Those circumstances include the bankruptcy of Toshiba, Westinghouse’s corporate parent, which is paying $3.7 billion to fulfill guarantees it made for the failed nuclear firm. Other conditions would be the PSC’s disallowal of the amended Vogtle cost schedule or an increase in the revised completion cost estimate filed in August by more than $1 billion. On Sept. 29, the Department of Energy announced a conditional agreement for $3.6 billion in additional loan guarantees, and Toshiba has begun payment of a $3.686 billion guarantee backstopping its Westinghouse Electric unit that was the contractor for Vogtle until it filed for bankruptcy in March.
The revised agreement also stipulates that the Vogtle owners’ sole recourse against Georgia Power or Southern Nuclear, which has taken over for Westinghouse as the EPC contractor on the project, for “any action or inaction in connection with their performance as agent for the Vogtle Owners is limited to removal of Georgia Power and/or Southern Nuclear as agent, except in cases of willful misconduct.”
The PSC heard testimony from several critics of the nuclear project as the testimony continued, including the Southern Environmental Law Center.The commission is scheduled to issue its final recommendation on the project on Feb. 6.
Updates article to remove reference to R Street Institute, which did not testify at the hearing.
- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Georgia Power and partners appeal for completion of Plant Vogtle
- Post & Courier Once-secret audit from South Carolina raising questions for nuclear reactors in Georgia
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