15 month delay for new Plant Vogtle nukes —state inspector at PSC

Southern Company's new nukes are delayed at least fifteen months, at least a billion over budget and rising, and not organized to meet safety filing requirements, yet the Georgia PSC yesterday let SO pass the buck to contractors and Georgia Power continue charging customers for that boondoggle, despite 40 to 1 opposition from attendees.

Ellen Reinhardt wrote for GPB News yesterday, Plant Vogtle Construction Costs Rising,

An independent auditor told utility regulators Plant Vogtle construction will be delayed at least 15 months and go millions of dollars over budget.

Nuclear engineer William Jacobs said poor construction material, contractor mistakes and oversight delays will mean the Unit 3 reactor won't be ready until July of 2017.

That's 15 months later than planned.

Surprise! From $0.66 to $8.87 billion: original Plant Vogtle nuclear costs Who could have expected that, given that back in the 1970s and 1980s costs blew up 26 times the original estimate. Back then SO complained about paperwork after Three Mile Island. They're trying that same excuse now, but even a former Commissioner-turned-lobbyist is incredulous, as Kristi Swartz reported for the AJC yesterday, Monitor: Paperwork problems a drag on Vogtle schedule,

“It's taken eight months to handle paperwork deficiencies?” asked Bobby Baker, a former PSC commissioner who now represents Resource Supply Management, an energy consultant that works with large commercial, institutional and industrial electric customers.

A current Commissioner was almost as incredulous:

“Do you know how difficult it would be to stand in front of ratepayers and voters and to say the reason this project is over budget is because of paperwork?” asked PSC Chairman Tim Echols.

Reinhardt's story says Echols nonetheless made excuses:

Ratepayers like Miklethun are already paying for current construction costs in their monthly bills. Commission Chair Tim Echols points out that despite the construction delays, Georgia Power has not asked to increase customer rates again.

Georgia Power didn't asked for another rate increase this time because they just got a rate increase approved last month! After PSC rubberstamped previous cost overruns in August.

“In the long run we will be very glad we built this plant when natural gas prices go up in 15 or 20 or 30 years. And all these other states have all their eggs in this natural gas basket. And then Georgia has these reactors sitting there producing low cost energy.”he says.

That shows how serious Echols is in his professed support of solar power: not very serious at all. Moore's Law will drive solar costs even further below nuclear, coal, oil, gas, and even wind. In even 15 years we will be very sad if we we're still paying on that nuclear white elephant (completed or not) when most of our power is from solar energy by then, despite obstructionism meanwhile from Georgia Power and Southern Company, and spinelessness from the Georgia PSC.

Commissioner Doug Everett asked the key question:

“Which would you think would be best for the ratepayers of Georgia, stop it now or continue with it?”

Unfortunately, the PSC accepted inspector Jacobs' answer:

“At this point, continue with the project.”

Even though the inspector said the project was not organized well enough, as Jonathan Shapiro wrote for WABE yesterday, State Inspector: Nuclear Project Delayed Further, Contractor Performance To Blame,

He [Jacobs] added it remained difficult to pin down an exact time frame because Georgia Power and its contractors have yet to establish an updated long-term schedule.

“The project must have an agreed-upon and fully developed integrated project schedule. You can't run a project of this magnitude, this complexity without that type of schedule,” said Jacobs.

Only two people who spoke for continuing these new nukes. One of them was James H. Rust of the Heartland Institute, which brags about its ties to ALEC, and which has been criticised by an editorial in Nature (Nature 475, 423-424 (28 July 2011) doi:10.1038/475423b Published online 27 July 2011 ), "the Heartland Institute and its ilk are not trying to build a theory of anything. They have set the bar much lower, and are happy muddying the waters." Even Heartland Institute's Rust admits:

About 80 individuals were in attendance at the hearings and with the exception of one other speaker, all speakers requested Georgia Power Company stop construction of the nuclear power plants.

80 to 2; that's a clue, PSC, especially when one of the two represents a climate denying institute. Yes, it's past time to stop this boondoggle now.

Shapiro's article concludes:

The Public Service Commission will vote whether to approve Georgia Power's latest round of spending on the nuclear expansion project February 19th.

I believe they also meet again in January (3 Jan 2013, 5 Feb, and 19 Feb, plus Energy Committee meetings 27 Dec, 10 Jan, 31 Jan and 14 Jan). You can protest directly to Georgia Power about that CWIP stealth tax on your bill. Or you can contact the GA PSC or the state legislature.