By Molly Samuel – WABE
Earlier this week, South Carolina utilities decided to scrap a nuclear power expansion project. Now, Georgia is the only state in the nation with nuclear reactors under construction.
The future of the project here is up in the air, too.
Meanwhile, Georgia Power customers are still paying for it.
For the past six years, each Georgia Power bill has included a monthly fee that goes toward Plant Vogtle, called the Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery Tariff.
On a call with investors on Wednesday, Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning said that Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Southern, had collected $1.4 billion in financing costs through the NCCR.
Liz Coyle, the executive director of the consumer advocacy group Georgia Watch, said the dollar amount is higher than that. According to a document filed with the Georgia Public Service Commission in April, Georgia Power had collected $1.9 billion from customers as of December 2016 – and it’s still collecting the money on monthly bills.
So if the project gets scrapped, do people get that money back?
“You never say never,” said Coyle. But, “there’s not going to be a refund of that money.”
The state legislature voted in 2009 to allow Georgia Power to collect the tariff from its customers. The utility says having customers pay for the financing will save money in the long run.
The turmoil started earlier this year, when the lead contractor building both the Georgia and the South Carolina projects went bankrupt.
Southern Nuclear, a sister company to Georgia Power, took over contracting from Westinghouse last month.
Fanning told analysts on Wednesday that he now expects the nuclear reactors to be completed between February 2021 and March 2023.
The estimated cost to build the new reactors at the plant, which is co-owned by Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, the City of Dalton and the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, could double from the initial budget to as much as $25 billion.
Georgia Power will propose whether or not to finish building the nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle later this month.
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