Southern Company wants even more special loan guarantee terms for its new Plant Vogtle nukes. When that or CWIP gets revoked, maybe Southern Company will see that solar is a lot less trouble, and more profitable.
The license authorized by the NRC 9 February 2012 for the new Plant Vogtle nukes is the first one in thirty years. Harvey Wasserman wrote for CounterPunch 18 April 2012, The Big Liability,
It’s about a proposed $8.33 billion nuke power loan guarantee package for two reactors being built at Georgia’s Vogtle. Obama anointed it last year for the Southern Company, parent to Georgia Power. Two other reactors sporadically operate there. Southern just ravaged the new construction side of the site, stripping virtually all vegetation.
It’s also stripped Georgia ratepayers of ever-more millions of dollars, soon to become billions. This project is in the Peach State for its law forcing the public to pay for reactor construction in advance.
Look on your Georgia Power bill for Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery Rider, aka Construction Work in Progress (CWIP). It’s probably about 3% of your bill, for power you may never receive.
If you get your electricity from an EMC instead, remember Georgia’s Electric Member Corporations already participate in the existing Plant Vogtle nukes, so you’ll be on the hook one way or another for the new nukes.
When the project fails, or the reactors melt, the public still must pay.
And even before then, Georgia Power customers get to pay for cost overruns. Not to worry; last time nukes were built at Plant Vogtle, they only ran over budget by a factor of seven.
Southern Company’s existing Plant Vogtle reactors had an unexpected shutdown last year days after NRC said they were fine. And Southern Company says it’s incompetent to implement new EPA rules about coal plant emissions even though other energy companies see no problem.
A taste of what’s coming has emerged in shocking defects in poured concrete at the site which will cost millions to correct and months of delay on a project whose construction has barely begun.
We should trust such a company to build and operate nukes?
Nonetheless, Southern runs virtually no financial risk. It actually has an interest in never finishing. Florida is now in turmoil, trying to rid itself of a similar Construction Work in Progress law.
Worldwide estimated reactor costs have jumped from $3-5 billion each a few short years ago to $10 billion or more, and rising.
Uranium prices are set to soar as the supply of Russian weapons-based fuel is about done. And renewables have long since outstripped atomic energy as being cheaper, faster to build, cleaner, safer, more reliable and open to community ownership.
There are virtually no private investors willing to back new reactor construction. There are no private insurers willing to take the risk on operating reactors. There is no place to store the radioactive wastes they generate.
Meanwhile, there is plenty of private financing available for solar plants, as formerly coal-smoking Cobb EMC has just demonstrated.
It’s time for Southern Company and Georgia Power to do what Cobb EMC and Austin Energy already did: stop opposing solar power and move ahead full speed with clean solar and wind for jobs, energy independence, and profit!
By stopping CWIP, we can stop Southern Company’s new Vogtle nukes, and that will stop the ill-advised post-Fukushima flood of new reactors. And maybe there’s a faster path: stop the construction loan guarantee.
But the lynchpin is Vogtle. The construction loan guarantee program got $18.5 billion from George W. Bush in 2005. With the industry in deepening chaos, it took until last year for a president to designate less than half that money. For the first time in years, there is no Executive or Congressional request to put more money into the fund.
The French National Utility EDF did step forward to get funding for Maryland’s proposed Calvert Cliffs project. But haggling over terms contributed to its demise.
Now Southern faces the same abyss. It refuses what the mortgage community would consider a normal 20% downpayment on its taxpayer-funded loan. Southern wants to put virtually none of its own money into the project, leaving the radioactive gamble totally to the public.
That’s not just Georgia Power customers: taxpayers throughout Georgia and the U.S. would be stuck paying not just for the main loan guarantee, but even for Southern Company’s 20% down payment. Does that seem right to you?
But the Office of Management and Budget is apparently demanding something more reasonable. Obama holds the key. It’s our job to make him turn it in a green direction….
But killing this loan guarantee package could finally kill the prospect of new reactors in the US. The astonishing rise of Solartopian green technologies has far outstripped atomic energy in the marketplace. Every delay deeply diminishes the possibility of building more of these profoundly uneconomic anachronisms.
Come on, Southern Company! It’s time to stop sucking up public funds for a failed business model. Help your offshoot Georgia Power join Austin Energy and Cobb EMC in a real solar future.