Tag Archives: regulatory capture

The Korean nuclear mafia: power companies, vendors, and testers

Document-forging Doosan was just the tip of the Korean nuclear corruption iceberg.

It’s different stateside, right? San Onofre 2 and 3 Oh, wait: U.S. NRC is refusing to supply Congress with safety documents related to the closing of San Onofre. But Plant Vogtle is much safer, right? Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning told us so. Of course, he also told us Kemper Coal would come in on budget, and now SO is writing off $611 million after taxes. But that bad concrete pour, the misplaced reactor vessel, the leaking tritium; those are all flukes, right? Meanwhile, solar panels don’t leak tritium, and if you misplace one, you only lose money, not risk lives.

By Choe Sang-Hun in NY Times yesterday, Scandal in South Korea Over Nuclear Revelations,

Korean nuclear reactor Weeks of revelations about the close ties between South Korea’s nuclear power companies, their suppliers and testing companies have led the prime minister to liken the industry to a mafia.

The scandal started after an anonymous tip in April prompted an official investigation. Prosecutors have indicted some officials at a testing company on charges of faking safety tests on parts for the plants. Some officials at the state-financed company that designs nuclear power plants were also indicted on charges of taking bribes from testing company officials in return for accepting those substandard parts.

Worse yet, Continue reading

$1.88 billion and more on Kemper Coal to be charged to Mississippi Power customers

Risks at Southern Company’s Kemper Coal plant in Mississippi? Push those costs onto the public, of course! Southern Company and its subsidiary Mississippi Power got the MS Public Service Commissioners to approve super-CWIP (Construction Work in Progress) for Kemper Coal: automatic rate increases for MS Power customers for years. Just like Southern Company and its biggest subsidiary Georgia Power got the Georgia legislature to approve Super-CWIP for the new nukes at Plant Vogtle back in 2009. And both CWIP projects are already over budget. How about we cancel those boondoggles and build solar and wind instead?

AP reported 13 December 2012, After spending $1.88 billion, Southern Co. still faces risks on plant in Kemper County,

Continue reading

First ALEC, now Heartland Institute: losing sponsors

Heartland Institute, one of only two organizations to field a speaker for continuing Plant Vogtle delays and cost overruns at this week's GA PSC hearing, has been dropped by every pharmaceutical company. When you're down to Heartland Institute and renewable-energy-opposing and astroturf-funding super-lobby group ALEC, itself rapidly losing members (so bad even Bank of America has dumped ALEC); and when your public hearing speakers are 40 to 1 against continuing with Southern Company and Georgia Power's nuclear boondoggle, maybe it's time to end it.

Brad Johnson wrote for thinkprogress 19 December 2012, Heeding Public Outrage, Pfizer Drops Climate Denial And Tobacco Front Group Heartland Institute,

The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (PFE) has confirmed that it will no longer support the Heartland Institute, a political advocacy group that questions the science of climate change and tobacco smoking. Forecast the Facts, which is leading the campaign calling on corporations to drop Heartland, was informed of the decision by Pfizer's Corporate Secretary Matthew Lepore. Pfizer was a major donor to Heartland, giving $45,000 in 2012 alone.

Pfizer's decision means that there are no longer any pharmaceutical companies known to support the Heartland Institute.

Pfizer's last contribution to Heartland was in 2012. Pfizer's decision follows a groundswell of public outrage over the corporate support for the Heartland Institute's toxic behavior, including a billboard campaign that equated believers in climate change with serial killers such as the Unabomber. Over 150,000 people have signed petitions to corporate leaders to drop Heartland. Pfizer is the 21st company to end its support for Joseph Bast's organization, joining its competitors Amgen (AMGN), Eli Lilly (LLY), Bayer (BAYRY), and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), as well as major companies like General Motors (GM), State Farm, and PepsiCo (PEP).

That’s the best you’ve got for support, PSC, and you’re pretending continuing to let Southern Company and Georgia Power run up a bill of $billions is in the best interests of the people of Georgia?

-jsq

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,

β€œIt'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:

Continue reading

Original nuclear Plant Vogtle cost overruns

Why should we expect Southern Company to be any better at controlling costs now than back in the 1970s and 1980s when its original nukes on the Savannah River went massively over budget? Massively as in 26 times as much per unit as originally projected.

Kristi Swartz wrote for the AJC 30 Jan 2012, A financial look at Plant Vogtle nuclear projects,

From $0.66 to $8.87 billion: original Plant Vogtle nuclear costs When the two original nuclear units at Plant Vogtle were planned, the total cost estimate was $660 million.

Yet, as Jon Gertner reported for NYTimes 16 July 2006,

The plant took almost 15 years to move from blueprints to being operational. And by the time it began producing electricity in the late 1980’s, its total cost, $8.87 billion, was so far overbudget that Vogtle became yet another notorious example of the evils of nuclear energy….

The grand plan was to have four reactors. Instead, it was scaled back to two, Vogtle Unit 1 (finished in 1987) and Vogtle Unit 2 (1989).

That’s right, 4 nuclear units were planned for $660,000,000 fifteen (15) years later only 2 units were built, for $8,870,000,000. That’s more than $8 billion in cost overruns, or more than 13 times the original cost estimate. So per unit, that’s more than 26 times the original estimate, or more than $4 billion per unit.

Swartz provided a handy table of cost estimates by year:

Continue reading

PSC rubberstamps Vogtle costs; next day Fitch affirms Southern Company ratings

Need any more proof that Southern Company’s nuclear boondoggle only works with Georgia Power customer and taxpayer subsidy? PSC rubberstamps one day and Fitch affirms ratings the next day. Maybe we should elect Public Service Commissioners who will serve the public.

Georgia Power PR 21 August 2012, Georgia PSC approves Vogtle construction costs

The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) today in a 5-0 vote approved Georgia Power’s spending on Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 for the period including July 1, 2011 through Dec. 31, 2011.

The next day, Fitch PR 23 August 2012, Fitch Affirms Ratings for Southern Company and Subsidiaries,

Continue reading

ALEC responds to Sierra Club report

Received yesterday on Sierra Club reports on big fossil fuel’s coordinated attack on clean energy. My comments below. -jsq

Although the Sierra Club was notified of the errors in their report, they have yet to address them. In addition, neither fact checking nor communication was attempted by the Sierra Club on claims made in this report.

In response to this error-filled report , here is a short statement and brief fact check.

http://www.alec.org/fact-setting-response-to-sierra-club-report/

-Todd Wynn

And if you follow that link you find these things:

The American Legislative Exchange Council is not against renewable energy in any form….

ALEC believes that free markets in energy produce more options, more energy, lower prices and less economic disruptions. Also, ALEC believes that mandates to transform the energy sector and use renewable energy sources place the government in the unfair position of choosing winners and losers, keeping alive industries that are dependent on special interest lobbying. ALEC opposes mandates and therefore opposes infighting among fuel sources. ALEC also believes that government programs designed to encourage and advance energy technologies should not reduce energy choices or supply. They should not limit the production of electricity, for example, to only politically preferable technologies.

Translation: ALEC opposes renewable energy portfolio (REP) standards, which is one of the main points of the Sierra Club report. So ALEC’s rebuttal actually supports that point.

The rest of ALEC’s response is fiddling around the edges about Continue reading

CWIP for SO’s Kemper Coal Plant in Mississippi

Southern Company (SO) is playing the CWIP game of charging customers for electricity they won’t for years with coal in Kemper, Mississippi, not just with nuclear at Plant Vogtle in Georgia. Maybe we should elect some new Georgia Public Service Commissioners so we won’t see the kind of behavior Mississippi’s PSC has turned to.

Cassandra Sweet wrote for Dow Jones and WSJ 25 July 2012, 2nd UPDATE: Southern Co. Second-Quarter Profit Up as Economy Improves,

The company is proceeding with construction of a $2.88 billion advanced-coal plant in Mississippi, despite a decision last month by state regulators to deny a $55 million rate increase the company requested while a related court case is pending. The company’s Mississippi Power unit has filed an appeal of that decision with the state Supreme Court, and argues that without the rate increase it won’t be able to cover certain project expenses that could boost its customers’ future costs.

Mississippi’s Public Service Commission actually denied that rate increase, partly due to opposition from AARP, Sierr Club, and other concerned organizations and citizens. Imagine Georgia’s captive PSC doing that! Mississippi Power took it all the way to the MS Supreme Court, challenged by MS Sierra Club, and that Supreme Court also denied the rate increase. According to MS Sierra Club:

Continue reading

Southern Company shutting some coal generation

Southern Company (SO) is reducing its coal fuming and making the rest comply with EPA regulations, and is surprised to discover that won’t cost nearly as much or take nearly as long as it complained only 8 months ago. But remember SO isn’t even abandoning coal and is shifting to big-plant baseload natural gas and nuclear while avoiding distributed solar and wind power.

Cassandra Sweet wrote for Dow Jones and the WSJ 25 July 2012, 2nd UPDATE: Southern Co. Second-Quarter Profit Up as Economy Improves,

Southern Co. plans to shut down about 4,000 megawatts of older, coal-fired power plants to comply with stricter federal pollution rules.

How much coal generation is that? SO’s Plant Scherer near Juliette, Georgia, the largest power plant in the western hemisphere, burning 12 million tons of Wyoming coal every year, is the “nation’s No. 1 producer of carbon dioxide β€” the heat-trapping gas that is held chiefly responsible in models of global warming” (number two is SO’s Plant Bowen near Cartersville and number three is SO’s Plant Miller in Quinton, Alabama). Each of Plant Scherer’s four plants is rated at 880 megawatts, or 3520 MW total. But don’t get your hopes up: one of those four plants is owned by Florida Power and Light and JEA of Jacksonville, Florida. Why should Florida power companies want to shut down a plant that leaves the pollution in Georgia while exporting the power to Florida?

Continue reading

Letting the foxes in the DNR henhouse —Katherine Helms Cummings

Guess who thinks letting regulated corporations contribute to the natural resources regulatory agency is a good idea?

Received yesterday on Stop Georgia Power from stopping you from affording solar. -jsq

And if GA Power having control over the grid here isn’t bad enough, now the General Assembly is considering letting DNR ask for donations from the corporations they issue permits to, and then enforce.

-Katherine Helms Cummings

She linked to this post on her blog, HB 887 gives corporate foxes the key to the hen house,
I have a hard time believing that the DNR is going to hold a bake sale to protect the rivers and streams of our state. Some House leaders, including Judy Manning (R-Marietta) and Debbie Buckner (D-Junction City) have said they are uneasy with HB 887. Rightly so.
OK, so who thinks it’s a good idea? Continue reading