Cost of Georgia nuclear plant draws scrutiny from lawmakers

Vogtle power plant Photo: AP
Vogtle power plant

September 21, 2018 03:51 PM

ATLANTA (AP) — A group of ranking Georgia lawmakers is sounding the alarm about cost overruns from construction at a nuclear power plant near Augusta.

The two additional reactors being built at Plant Vogtle, approximately 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Augusta, are years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. The lawmakers said they want a "cost cap" established to protect Georgians from getting gouged on their electricity bills.

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In August, the plant's owners, which include Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power Corporation and Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, learned that the plant would require an additional $2.3 billion, bringing the total cost estimate to $27 billion.

That new overage initiated a clause in the ownership agreement where ninety percent of ownership must agree to move forward. A down vote from any one of those organizations would mean the multibillion-dollar project is abandoned.

Georgia Power's parent company, Southern Company, pledged that its shareholders would absorb its share of the costs. That leaves Oglethorpe Power and MEAG with a decision: pay up or pull out.

The letter lawmakers sent Wednesday was signed by 20 members of the Georgia General Assembly, including Rep. Terry England, chairman of the House appropriations committee, and Sen. Butch Miller, president pro tempore of the Senate. It said that unlike Georgia Power, the other organizations "don't have the luxury of shareholders to absorb these additional costs and will have to increase rates even higher."

They asked the owners to "ensure prior to voting in support of moving forward ... that a cost cap is established to protect all Georgia electric ratepayers from this and future overruns."

But Gov. Nathan Deal took a different stance. A day before the lawmaker's letter was sent, Deal sent a letter to Oglethorpe Power encouraging completion of the project.

"Given the project's critical economic impact to the State of Georgia, I strongly encourage (the project's) co-owners to continue work and complete the construction," Deal said. "I am counting on the project co-owners to follow through on the commitments you made to the citizens of Georgia, ratepayers and myself."

The plug was pulled on a similar project in neighboring South Carolina in July 2017 when the V.C. Summer plant was abandoned after going billions of dollars over.

Credits

By BEN NADLER

(Copyright 2018 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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