Builders of Vogtle Nuclear Plant Face Growing Costs, Concerns
The pending and likely future budget increases may be fueling heightened political concerns as well. State Rep. Jeff Chapman (R) is sponsoring HB 267, a bill that would require the utilities to use the current $6.1-billion capital cost for calculating their future profits on the plant’s operation—-thus limiting the utility's future revenue.
Asked about the pending legislation, Georgia Power's Williams would only note that the bill failed to make it out of committee during last year’s session. But Chapman says recent developments have brought greater attention to the issue.
"Concern throughout the legislative and executive branch about Vogtle costs is growing," Chapman told ENR via email. He cited a recent agreement by Southern Co. subsidiary Mississippi Power to absorb cost escalations on its ongoing Kemper County powerplant project as a parallel to the situation with Vogtle.
Chapman added: "The fact that Mississippi Power agreed to eat the cost overruns ... was a watershed moment for many in our legislature, who rightly asked, ‘If it’s good for Mississippi, why isn’t it good for Georgia?'"
According to the Associated Press, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) seemed to echo those sentiments recently when he stated that he thought it would be a “good solution” if Southern Co. absorbed more of Vogtle’s additional expenses.
Watchdog group Nuclear Watch South of Atlanta was able to intervene in the Vogtle case before the PSC. The group's expert witness, Steven Prenovitz, testified that the new plant is now unnecessary due to weakening energy demand, asserting that Georgia Power utilized just 54% of its capacity during 2012.
Williams, the utility spokesman, did not directly refute Prenovitz's figures, but responded: "The economic benefits of the Vogtle project have been consistently demonstrated. The project provides $4 billion more in economic value over the next best available option for Georgia Power customers."