Why are you gambling on nuclear instead of solar? –Gloria Tatum @ SO 2013-05-22

Why is SO gambling our health and dollars on Plant Vogtle when Georgia Power could be getting on with solar power? SO CEO Tom Fanning avoided the first part of Gloria Tatum’s question by simply denying it, and danced around the second part by saying the rate hike for Plant Vogtle’s cost overruns would only be 6 to 8 percent, not 12 percent. Do you want to pay 6 or 8 percent more for a radioactive white elephant when you could be getting power from the sun for less?

The floor person at the 22 May 2013 Southern Company Stockholder Meeting introduced Gloria Tatum with 164 shares, representing Nuclear Watch South, and the SO CEO insisted

TF: Call me Tom. Gee whiz.

Gloria Tatum GT: Tom. Hi,Tom. It’s great to be here on this beautiful day.

TF: Thank you. Yes ma’am.

GT: And I know Southern Company’s done many wonderful things, but I want to point out a few things to you today.

First, you know, after the Fukushima meltdown, TEPCO’s $50 billion nuclear complex became a worthless liability. The deadly radiation still circles the planet, polluting the earth and increasing cancer. Other countries have abandoned their nuclear and they’re looking to renewable, but Southern Company’s affiliate, Georgia Power, continues construction on two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. Now Shell Bluff is a community down the stream from Plant Vogtle and it has experienced a 25 percent increase in cancer since Vogtle 1 and 2 have been built.

Another problem with Vogtle that lots of us are having a problem with is that, in order to build these new reactors, Georgia Power customers are forced to pay an unfair Construction Work in Progress tax that shifts the financial burden from Georgia Power to the rate payers and this is especially harmful to senior citizens, like myself, and low-income people who are now subsidizing nuclear. I think it’s time — I know that you are beginning to go into solar and wind but I believe it’s only about 1 percent — but it’s a beginning — but it’s time to abandon risky nuclear and the unfair CWIP tax.

Every year Georgia receives the equivalent of 1.3 billion barrels of oil from the sun in the form of solar energy. Georgia has the fifth-highest potential of any state in the country to produce solar energy. Solar does not produce radioactive waste nor release tritium into the environment like Plant Vogtle, which can cause birth defects and cancer. And even on a cloudy day, you still receive solar energy.

Mr. Fleming — Fanning, excuse me. Why are you gambling? Sorry. Tom, Tom, Tom and gentlemen and ladies, why are you gambling the company’s future and the health of their environment and their citizens on antiquated, dangerous and very expensive nuclear energy, when the Southeast is an untapped gold mine of safe, clean and cheap solar energy. If Germany — which is a much colder country — can meet half of their energy needs from solar in just a few years, why can’t Georgia?

TF: Wow. There’s a lot of questions in that one. Let me go through just a few — thank you very much. I appreciate it. Let’s go through a few of them.

The board here --Tom Fanning The first one you — the community you mentioned, there’s been lots of studies about any connection between cancers rates and Plant Vogtle. And, ma’am, with all due respect, there is no connection there. That has been evaluated thoroughly.

Number two, Fukushima. The board here serves your-all’s interest exceedingly well. I remember when the earthquake hit, I called the board up and we did an emergency informational meeting. We didn’t The board of Southern Company know what was happening at Fukushima and the tsunami was just getting ready to come but we did say to each other, this was a big deal, we need to be on top of it. So I can tell you that we were “hands on the wheel” when that event was unfolding. And of course, as we saw what happened, it was a disaster at Fukushima. As the tsunami came in and took out all the external power sources — including the onsite diesel backup capability and therefore the pumps didn’t run, the pipes didn’t work, the water didn’t get to where it needed to be — and that’s where you had the disaster unfold at Fukushima. A big deal --Tom Fanning

Of course, as with that event and the weeks that followed, our hearts, our prayers, our offers to help went out to those folks and we were very instrumental as an industry in helping Japan get back on its feet. Back on its feet --Tom Fanning

As you correctly mentioned, a lot of people in Europe tended to, I think, run scared from nuclear. I think that is poor policy and I’m not sure, you know, for the benefit of America, I don’t want to use Europe as any of my models.

Here is an interesting point, though. When you consider that there are about 67 or so active, new nuclear construction projects going on around the world, I think the world in terms of its reliance on nuclear power as a clean, safe, affordable solution for this world’s energy future is, in fact, something that we need to pursue. And in fact, the United States is probably following what’s going on elsewhere in the world. Southern Company is proud to be a leader in the United States, however, in making that nuclear renaissance come to fruition.

And let’s 220 feet --Tom Fanning differentiate Vogtle 3 and 4 from Fukushima, if I could. First of all, we are not in any way exposed to the flooding that Fukushima was. Fukushima is on a coastline. In fact, the diesel generators were right there as the waves came in on the tsunami. We’re some 130 miles inland and 220 feet above sea level and we’ve evaluated all sorts of disasters, including three damn breaks upriver plus a hurricane all at the same time — no exposure.

Earthquake --Tom Fanning Second, we have the blessing of having a quiet geology. We are not exposed to the seismic risks that certainly Japan is.

And then thirdly — and perhaps most importantly — I just happen to have my coffee cup up here. The technology of Fukushima is old nuclear technology.

He didn’t mention Fukushima is the same technology as Plant Hatch 1 and 2, both operated by Southern Company.

Water cups --Tom Fanning The technology we’re deploying at Vogtle 3 and 4 is the newest, safest technology on the planet today. And essentially, what you have is the nuclear reactor right here — the water sits right above the reactor essentially like this — so that in the event of a disaster, Newton’s Law works; gravity sends water where it needs to be. We don’t have to rely on external power sources in order to get the water to the most important areas of the plants. So the — in fact, the whole design is called the Westinghouse AP1000. AP stands for advanced passive. 70 percent fewer pumps, valves and pipes. So we think Vogtle is going to be great.

Now let’s go through the economics of Vogtle, right. It is emissionless, number one. Number two, when we think about the price of Vogtle and you talked about CWIP. Not to pick, but CWIP isn’t a tax; it’s a way to recover costs over time.

Let’s see,

  1. Vogtle 1 and 2, like Hatch 1 and 2, leak radioactive tritium, so they’re not emissionless. Solar and wind are actually emissionless, plus they require no fuel.
  2. CWIP is a collection of funds by a public utility mandated by state law for use in building a facility that SO insists is of public benefit.
Merriam-Webster’s definition of a tax:
a charge usually of money imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes

Dictionary.com has a slightly more elaborate definition:

a sum of money demanded by a government for its support or for specific facilities or services, levied upon incomes, property, sales, etc.

The only way in which CWIP might not qualify as a tax is it’s not collected directly by a government. It is, however, demanded by a government through state law, is for specific facilities, and is levied upon sales.

Back to Tom Fanning:

Remember I said that building Vogtle takes about 10 years, okay. So we need some sort of cash flow over those 10 years in order to keep, you know, the credit and the financial integrity of the company sustainable and to help reduce the costs over time.

And you probably wouldn’t for building similar amounts of solar and wind power, considering that Google already installed almost as much wind and solar as Vogtle 3 and 4 are supposed to produce, for about as much as the Vogtle cost overruns so far, did it on-time and on-budget, and in much less than ten years.

Original price --Tom Fanning When we originally got Vogtle certified by the Georgia Public Service Commission, the original price increase was thought to be about 12 percent. With a variety of benefits that have accrued to the credit of Georgia Power’s customers — over $2 billion — we evaluate that even with the recent schedule change that we’ve made, we think that the net price increase to Georgia Power’s customers is not going to be 12 percent, Only 6 or 8 percent --Tom Fanning but somewhere between 6 percent to 8 percent. In fact, the net price has come down. My sense is this is going to be a technology that serves our interests exceedingly well for decades to come. Next question.

Is that your sense, as well, dear readers? What are these “variety of benefits that have accrued to the credit of Georgia Power’s customers”? The “recent schedule change” is 19 months late and about a billion dollars over budget. How about we call the whole thing off and build solar and wind instead?

Thanks to Southern Company for putting up a transcript which, while like all transcripts isn’t always 100% accurate (I’ve made some corrections such as “a mission list” to “emissionless” and added paragraph breaks), makes blogging a lot easier. SO’s video is still in opaque brightcove format that, unlike YouTube or Vimeo, doesn’t permit linking to specific times, so you’ll have to manually scan to 55 minutes and 12 seconds to see Gloria Tatum speak. All stills here are from SO’s video, taken by me as fair use.


1 thought on “Why are you gambling on nuclear instead of solar? –Gloria Tatum @ SO 2013-05-22

  1. Pingback: SO’s plan to make the Southeast a net exporter of the energy from solar and wind? –John S. Quarterman @ SO 2013-05-22 | On the LAKE front

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