Tag Archives: Georgia Public Service Commission

As Georgia regulators ponder Vogtle’s future, more revelations emerge about its doomed twin in South Carolina

Westinghouse-AP-1000by Tom Baxter
11/13/17 ATLANTA: From a design point of view, the nuclear projects at Plant Vogtle and the V.C. Summer site in South Carolina were identical. They were to be the first in a new generation of U.S. nuclear reactors, the Westinghouse AP1000s, cheaper, easier to build and safer than their predecessors.

After years of costly delays, the fate of the two projects diverged last summer, when the South Carolina utilities funding the Summer project pulled the plug on it, just days after the Georgia Public Service gave the go-ahead for continuing construction at Vogtle, despite the bankruptcy of Westinghouse.

The impact of the Westinghouse debacle has been felt more sharply in South Carolina, where a substantially smaller population of ratepayers is shouldering the enormous costs. One result of this has been a very productive competition between Columbia’s The State and Charleston’s The Post and Courier, both of which have been aggressive in reporting on the regulatory failures that accompanied the engineering blunders on the road to ruin for the Summer project.

Last week, as the Georgia Public Service Commission was holding four days of hearings on the future of the Vogtle project, portable devices were buzzing with the fruits of that effort.

Read the whole article: Saporta Report

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Opinion: An answer for Ga. Power

vogtle_ajcby Jay Bookman
11/13/17 ATLANTA: More than a decade ago, our good friends at Georgia Power conceived the idea of building two new nuclear reactors — the first to be built on U.S. soil in a generation — at its Vogtle site outside Augusta.

Georgia Power recruited the partners it needed from electric co-ops and city utilities around the state. It convinced its obedient servants at the state Public Service Commission to rubber-stamp the project, which they did by a 4-1 vote. (All four “yes” men are still on the PSC  today, still collecting their six-figure salaries, their durability testament to the wisdom of not crossing Georgia Power.)

The company hired the most powerful lobbyists in the state to supplement its own standing army of lobbyists, then strong-armed a law through a compliant state Legislature that forced consumers to start paying for the nuke projects immediately, long before they produced any power. Getting the signature of then-Gov. Sonny Perdue on that bill also proved to be no problem, since the man whom Perdue had hired as his chief of staff happened to have been Georgia Power’s top lobbyist for decades.

Georgia Power chose the design. Georgia Power hired the contractors. Georgia Power assured everyone who would listen that the problems that had long dogged nuclear power — the safety concerns, the massive cost-overruns and construction delays — had been resolved, and that the units would be up and producing power by 2017 just as scheduled. Critics who noted the difficulty and risk of trying to restart a complicated, zero-defect industry from scratch were steamrollered.

The message from the company was steadfast: “Don’t worry, we got this.”

Well no, they didn’t. They were wrong, spectacularly wrong, and their critics have been proved right. Under the original schedule, both new nuclear units should have been producing power by now. Instead, they are less than half built. The cost overruns have been enormous, basically doubling in cost even if nothing further goes wrong. And what is the price to be paid for such failure?

For Georgia Power, the price is none. No price, and to hear Georgia Power tell it, no failure. In a meeting last week with reporters from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers was asked whether the company deserved any blame or responsibility for imposing this financial catastrophe on the people of Georgia.

“The answer to that question is no,” Bowers said.

No? The answer to that question is no?

Read the whole article: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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CEO of Georgia powerhouse skips the whole apology thing

bowersby Matt Kempner
11/8/17 ATLANTA: If you made a giant mess that your neighbors were going to end up paying for, would you take a moment to apologize to them? Perhaps at least mumble something about “regret”?

Georgia Power’s CEO did not utter such words the other day. Not even close.

CEO Paul Bowers made a rare personal appearance at a hearing before the Georgia Public Service Commission this week. He was there to explain why state regulators should continue the Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion project and force the company’s customers — his neighbors — to take on way more risk and billions in additional costs because the project has careened off the rails.

“We understand that this is a complex and difficult decision,” Bowers told the elected body.
The project was supposed to be producing electricity before now. Instead, after years of busted assurances and forecasts, Georgia Power’s latest estimate is for completion in another five years.

Maybe. Because now it’s also warning that there’s a whole lot that still could go wrong to screw up its latest projection. So, don’t hold Georgia Power accountable to that timetable.

Bowers didn’t hint at any remorse during what apparently was his only appearance in a Georgia PSC hearing since getting Georgia Power’s top job almost seven years ago. As Sir Elton sang: “Sorry seems to be the hardest word.”

Read the whole article: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Time to decide if you pay more for Georgia’s nuclear debacle

by Matt KempnerVogtle_ajc_8-3-17
11/3/17 ATLANTA: Don’t read beyond this sentence if you don’t pay a power bill in Georgia and never will.

Otherwise, get your wallet out.

There’s a bit of show biz about to start Monday in hearings with elected state regulators. When it’s over, it’s likely to end up costing you and your Georgia descendents for decades to come.

That’s because the only giant, deeply delayed, steeply over-budget nuclear power construction project still underway in the U.S. may well get another wink and pat on the back from Georgia regulators.

So far, Georgia politicians have failed to enact significant consumer protections that would limit a government-enforced monopoly (Georgia Power) from sidestepping the vast majority of risk while raking in extra (extra!) profits on the overruns for the company’s Plant Vogtle expansion.

Elected members of the Georgia Public Service Commission start the first of four days of hearings Monday. It’s Round One in what on paper could be a momentous decision after years of complex construction plagued by unfinished designs, incomplete scheduling, flawed parts and workmanship, insufficient oversight early on and too much worker downtime.

The PSC accepted the setbacks, missteps and busted budget in the past. But now PSC members are faced with their first go/no-go vote since originally approving the project in 2009. That’s because the bankruptcy of Westinghouse, the project’s main contractor, throws significantly more risk and cost into the mix.

Read the whole article: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Georgia Power vs. the law of holes

Plant-Vogtle-construction-2014by Lyle Harris
10/16/17 ATLANTA Georgia Power is likely to get another shot-in-the-arm after announcing plans to complete construction on those ill-fated nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro.

A more appropriate response to this epic boondoggle, of course, would be a swift kick in the pants. But don’t count on it.

The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) has scheduled hearings on November 6 to discuss the troubled project, Along with the Southern Company (Georgia Power’s corporate parent) and the smaller utilities that are partners on the Plant Vogtle expansion, there’s little reason to worry about some silly old hearings. While the PSC is ostensibly charged with balancing the interests of the utility with those of its customers, the scales are reliably tipped in Georgia Power’s favor.

The planned reactors at Plant Vogtle were supposed to be up and running by now but they’re only about one-third complete. A series of major snafus and setbacks (including the bankruptcy of Westinghouse Electric which designed and was building the reactors) has increased chances that Georgia households will be picking up more of the tab.

Read the whole article: Saporta Report

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Conservative group taking Georgia Power to task on Vogtle costs overrun

4364312_web1_0901NuclearLeadby Tom Corwin
10/11/17 AUGUSTA: A conservative Georgia group is calling out Georgia Power on the cost overruns on two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle and wants to repeal a state law that allows the company to pass along those costs to ratepayers while construction is underway.

The call puts the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots on the side of some more liberal groups opposing the project but President Debbie Dooley said some issues appeal to all sides. The group is also vowing to make it an issue in next year’s Public Service Commission elections.

The Atlanta Tea Party opposed Senate Bill 31 in 2009 that allowed Georgia Power to recoup the nuclear expansion costs at Vogtle and has supported efforts since to repeal it. But with the failure of a somewhat similar project in South Carolina at the V.C. Summer nuclear site, and the ensuing fallout over its ongoing burden on those ratepayers, Dooley said she believes there is renewed momentum to make the change in Georgia.

“I think there is a bigger demand for it this time because it is in the news,” she said. In the past, “I think people wanted to give Georgia Power the benefit of the doubt. But there’s no benefit of the doubt now.”

Read the whole article: Augusta Chronicle

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Georgia nuke backers scramble for reasons to keep going

newsEngin.19674583_Southern-AGL.JPEG-0b4bdby Matt Kempner
8/26/17 ATLANTA: There’s a mad scramble underway to come up with new reasons for why Georgians should continue to pay billions of dollars to expand nuclear power in the state. National security! Push back against Russia and China! Healthcare!

Seriously? Yeah, if you believe elected officials, who in the next few days are supposed to get new cost estimates and recommendations from the state’s biggest electric provider.

It seemed like only yesterday when Georgia Power convinced politicians on the Georgia Public Service Commission that a primary reason for expanding Plant Vogtle was because it was the cheapest way to cool our homes, charge our iPhones and keep industry chugging.

Proponents can no longer say that without twitching.

Four years ago, the PSC’s outside financial monitor warned that because of cheap natural gas and, to some extent, rising Vogtle costs, “if a decision had to be made today to build a new nuclear project, it would not be justified on the basis of these results.”

Read the whole article: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Georgia Power has nuked their credibility

by Jay Bookman
8/8/17 ATLANTA: It really is hard to believe.

Eight years after Georgia Power officials confidently assured us that they had this nuclear thing figured out, that two new units at Plant Vogtle could be brought in on budget and on time, leading a supposed renaissance in the U.S. nuclear industry, it’s all in danger of collapsing.

The projected cost of those units has almost doubled, to $25 billion and counting. Completion is still years away, and the prime contractor has gone bankrupt. Last month, construction of two similar units in South Carolina, facing similar cost overruns and delays, was abandoned after it became clear that the additional investment needed to complete the units could not be justified.

Now it’s Georgia’s turn.

Read the whole article: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Georgia Power’s nuclear tower teeters; EMCs ‘concerned’

Vogtle_ajc_8-17by Matt Kempner
8/6/17 ATLANTA: Our bumbling aspiration in Georgia to build more nuclear power is looking suspiciously like that wooden block game, Jenga.
You know, the one where you take turns pulling out a block at a time, hoping not to topple the teetering tower.

How many pieces can be pulled out before Georgia Power’s nuclear expansion at Plant Vogtle metaphorically collapses and takes with it billions of dollars in consumer money?

The few remaining blocks left at the project’s base look shaky to me. (Well, except maybe Georgia Power’s eagerness to continue with a project the state ensures will be delightfully profitable for the power company even though Vogtle is billions of dollars over budget and years behind on completion.)

Small community power systems across the state may be the next blocks to be yanked out of the last nuclear plant still under construction in the U.S.

If you happen to notice what just happened across the border in South Carolina, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Read the whole article: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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‘Idle’ workers cited at delayed Vogtle nuclear power project

Unknownby Matt Kempner
6/16/17: Add “idle” workers to the list of troubles at Georgia Power’s struggling nuclear expansion at Plant Vogtle.

Construction workers are supposed to be toiling away on the project that’s already three years behind schedule and falling farther behind.

But a state monitor recently testified that “idle time, early quits and late starts remained high” among construction workers on the first new-from-scratch U.S. nuclear energy project in 30 years.

“Low productivity has been a continuing issue,” according to written testimony by the construction monitor, William Jacobs, and Steven Roetger, a Georgia Public Service Commission staffer assigned to oversight of the project. They cited reviews by a consultant for the project’s contractor.

Attempts to improve the pace of work had little effect on productivity in the last year, they added. In fact, crucial parts of the construction have faced growing delays.

Read the whole article: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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