Cost caps sought for Georgia nuclear project to move forward

Vogtle power plant Photo: AP
Vogtle power plant

September 24, 2018 09:52 PM

ATLANTA (AP) — The nation's only major nuclear power plant under construction appears to still be alive as the three owners seek to hash out conditions that one of them set on the project, now years over schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

Oglethorpe Power on Monday said it's only willing to move forward with the construction of the two new reactors at the Vogtle nuclear power plant near Waynesboro, Georgia, if cost caps are implemented.

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It is unclear how the other utilities that own a stake will respond to the conditions. They've set a deadline of 5 p.m. Tuesday to come to an agreement.

The Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Georgia Southern had previously said it's willing to push forward.

A down vote by Oglethorpe Power could sink the project, which now has a total estimated cost of $27 billion.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal took to Twitter on Monday to urge Oglethorpe to vote to continue. He called on the utility to "to reconsider its decision before walking away from 7,000 GA jobs."

Southern Company, the parent company of Georgia Power, in August learned that another $2.3 billion dollar cost overage was expected on the project. That triggered a clause in the ownership agreement where 90 percent of ownership — all three utilities — need to agree to move forward.

The critical vote comes just days after the federal government warned the utilities that any move to cancel the planned expansion would lead to demands for quick repayment of nearly $6 billion in federal loans.

In a letter to the three owners, the Department of Energy said late Friday that if the construction project is canceled, the government is "prepared to move swiftly to fully enforce its rights under terms of the loan guarantee agreements, including the repayment provisions."

The letter calls the project "a linchpin in the all-of-the-above energy strategy required to sustain our nation's economic strength and energy independence."

Several state lawmakers sounded the alarm last week about cost overruns at the site, saying they wanted a "cost cap" established to protect Georgians from getting gouged on their electricity bills.

Plant Vogtle became the nation's last remaining commercial nuclear plant under construction after the plug was pulled on a similar project in South Carolina in July 2017. The V.C. Summer plant was abandoned after going billions of dollars over budget.

Credits

By BEN NADLER

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

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