New nukes increasingly bad business bet for Southern Company and Georgia Power

Harvey Wasserman wrote for HuffPost 9 April 2012, America’s 2 New Nukes Are on the Brink of Death,

The only two U.S. reactor projects now technically under construction are on the brink of death for financial reasons.

If they go under, there will almost certainly be no new reactors built here.

The much mythologized “nuclear renaissance” will be officially buried, and the U.S. can take a definitive leap toward a green-powered future that will actually work and that won’t threaten the continent with radioactive contamination.

Those are the stakes. And in that high-stakes poker game, it seems Southern Company is doing a little bluffing.

In Southern Company’s (SO) Q1 2012 Earnings Call 25 April 2012, its CEO Thomas Fanning revealed another little flaw in the project:

With any project of this magnitude and length, commercial disputes are to be expected. Discussions between the owners and the consortium are ongoing regarding a number of matters, including issues related to the timing of the receipt of the design control document, or DCD, and the combined operating licenses, or COLs. As you may be aware, the construction of Vogtle 3 and 4 will proceed under a new licensing framework that is significantly different from the one used previously.

Disputes within the consortium only a few weeks after permitting; that doesn’t sound good for the project.

Nuclear Street News posted 26 April, Southern Co. Posts 1Q Results; Will Stick With New Vogtle Units Even Without Loan Guarantees in which they quoted Fanning whistling in the dark about those loan guarantees:

“We’ll be successful whether we have them or not.”

He prefaced that bluff by saying:

“We’re very hopeful we’ll be able to reach a successful conclusion, but rest assured—if they ask us to do something that’s not in our customers’ interest, we won’t go forward.”

Maybe Georgia Power customers need to explain to Georgia Power and SO that paying through CWIP for risky potential nuke power they’re not even getting isn’t in their best interests. Maybe Georgia and U.S. taxpayers need to explain to gapower and SO that we want solar and wind for jobs, health, and energy independence.

This is the same Thomas Fanning who a year ago said he was “bullish” on solar. Maybe we should call his bluff and see him a clean renewable future; the same one he said he is “bullish” on.