Proposed New Vogtle Reactors Hit Roadblock

This blog was written by Sara Barczak, former Regional Advocacy Director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | May 6, 2010 | Energy Policy, Nuclear

Once again, the “Nuclear Relapse” hits home. Do these recent headlines inspire confidence in the nuclear industry’s much-hyped “comeback?”

“Georgia Judge Rules Against 2 Controversial Nuclear Reactors”

“Ruling Questions PSC Certification of New Vogtle Reactors”

“Ruling Questions Vogtle Expansion”

This time the roadblock hit the lead new nuclear reactor proposal in the United States, Southern Company’s two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, Georgia when a Fulton Co. Superior Court Judge ruled last Friday that the Georgia Public Service Commission (GPSC) acted illegally. This was in response to a lawsuit Southern Alliance for Clean Energy filed last summer. The final order issued May 5, 2010 remanded the case to the GPSC.

The Daily Report article by Greg Land provided some clear analysis:

“This is all about accountability,” said SACE attorney Michael P. Carvalho, arguing that nowhere in the certification order is there any explanation of the facts the PSC used in reaching its conclusions that the new AP-1000 reactors are technologically sound, or that the cost of the project is reasonable. “The PSC doesn’t need to agree with us, but they need to let us know what facts they relied upon,” he said.

Shoob agreed, asking attorneys for the state attorney general’s office and Georgia Power to point to one sentence explaining the PSC’s decision.

Troutman Sanders partner Robert P. Edwards Jr., representing Georgia Power, said that the PSC had stipulated to the underlying facts in approving the certification, but Shoob was unconvinced.

“I’ve been asked to review findings of fact and conclusions of law [before],” said Shoob, “but I’ve never been in a situation where I just can’t find any … I’m going to remand this back to the Public Service Commission.”

And this is the poster child of the nuclear industry’s attempt to reestablish itself and the recipient of a controversial $8.3 billion taxpayer-financed conditional nuclear loan guarantee awarded by President Obama in February (which the Company interestingly has yet to accept and has asked for a 30-day extension on top of the original 90-day deadline to respond).

The influence of Georgia Power, Southern Company’s largest subsidiary, on state utility regulators has been a high concern.  The illegal nature of a Georgia Public Service Commission green light on new Vogtle reactors is an example of this company’s excessive influence.  And what plays out later this summer when the Georgia Public Service Commission is confronted with an alleged whopping $800 million rate increase request from the utility giant — will the consumer be protected or will the status quo prevail?

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