Georgia regulators consider delay in report on Vogtle nuclear progress

Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

By Matt Kempner – Atlanta Journal-Constitution

State regulators are being asked to put off a Georgia Power report on whether the long-troubled Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion has fallen further behind schedule or made up for lost time.

More construction delays would increase the multi-billion-dollar project’s soaring costs, which could add to many Georgia residents’ power bills.

Georgia Power, which is regulated by elected members of the state Public Service Commission, is required to give an update on Vogtle’s progress every six months. Its next report is due in late February.

But staff for the PSC, citing an extra heavy caseload and plans to increase monitoring, proposed an agreement with Georgia Power that includes delaying the report by six months, until late August, according to a filing earlier this week. That would give the state’s staff more breathing room to dissect what the company ultimately reports.

Georgia Power agreed to the proposal. PSC commissioners could vote on the issue later in February.

Leaders of some consumer and environmental groups aren’t happy about delaying information from Georgia Power.

“The company and the project do not deserve this break in scrutiny at this critical time,” Sara Barczak, a director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, wrote in an emailed statement. “The ratepayers do not deserve this extended period of a lack of protection and transparency as their exposure potentially increases by more than a billion dollars.”

Liz Coyle, the executive director of Georgia Watch, pointed out that the delay means the company won’t make its latest disclosure while the state legislature is in session.

“There is a lack of transparency in what is happening with schedule and budget at a time when the legislature could take some action,” Coyle said.

Georgia Power said it is wrong to suggest the move is an intentional effort to avoid the legislative session. And a spokesman for the PSC pointed out that even under the original schedule, follow-up PSC hearings would have happened after the legislative session ends.

Georgia Power spokesman Jeff Wilson wrote in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “based upon the company’s current analysis, the Vogtle project remains on track for completion within the PSC-approved schedule of November 2021 (Unit 3) and November 2022 (Unit 4).”

Significant progress has been made on the project, he wrote, with about 700 pipe-fitters, electricians and other craft workers added since the beginning of November.

The Vogtle expansion, the only new nuclear power project still underway in the nation, is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. And the state’s independent monitors have warned about the potential for more delays and costs.

Copyright 2019 © Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution