• Commission votes to continue Plant Vogtle's nuclear reactor projects

    By: Tom Regan

    Updated:

    ATLANTA - The state agency that regulates utilities has decided Thursday to continue two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

    The project had been plagued by delays and escalating costs for years.

    Georgia Power estimates the reactors will cost $12.2 billion and won't be finished until 2021 and 2022.

    "That allows us to keep going with the project, but get claw back," said Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols.

    The new reactors on the Savannah River near Waynesboro were initially expected to cost the company about $6 billion and be completed this year.

    The state Public Service Commission decided that the reactors are still a good deal for ratepayers, who bear much of the cost. The PSC's analysts say it's not, arguing the project's current price tag is $3.9 billion more than what they consider reasonable.

    A vote by the PSC on whether to move forward was expected in February. But PSC Chairman Stan Wise told The Augusta Chronicle the commission plans to vote Dec. 21. Wise said Georgia Power wants a decision now so that, if the project gets canceled, the company could take advantage of tax laws that Congress plans to change next year.

    “It’s an inherently risky project, it's a tough construction project, so I'm cautiously optimistic,” Wise said. 

    Still, the PSC believes the project is good for customers, businesses and the state economy.

    "We would not have voted to continue this project, under the terms we established if we didn't believe it was in the best interest of rate payers and consumers in this state," Wise said.

    PSC staff members have said problems with the Plant Vogtle expansion began early with Westinghouse, manufacturer of the AP1000 reactors being installed at Vogtle. They say the reactors' design wasn't far enough along when the project began in 2009.

    Westinghouse declared bankruptcy in March. Construction of two of its new reactors in South Carolina was halted over the summer after that project was deemed too expensive to continue.

    Analysts for the PSC have recommended halting the Plant Vogtle expansion as well unless Georgia Power agrees to pass on more of the costs to its shareholders.

    Gov. Nathan Deal today praised the decision by Public Service Commission members to approve continuation of the Plant Vogtle expansion.

    “I commend the Public Service Commission for its vision and foresight in approving continuation of the Plant Vogtle expansion while holding the owners accountable to ratepayers,” said Deal. “Investing in clean, sustainable energy infrastructure is a worthwhile endeavor that will have a positive economic impact as well. Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4 will provide affordable energy to Georgians for more than 60 years while creating 6,000 jobs during project construction and 800 well-paying, permanent ones after. It is important that we stay the course.”

    Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. 

    Next Up: