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article imageFate of Vogtle power plant expansion could be decided Monday

By Karen Graham     Sep 22, 2018 in Environment
Atlanta - The federal government is warning the owners of the troubled Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia that any move to cancel a planned expansion would lead to demands for quick repayment of nearly $6 billion in federal loans.
The expansion of the Vogtle nuclear power plant near Augusta is already four years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. Vogtle’s two new nuclear reactors were initially scheduled to have been up and running in April 2017.
When construction began in 2009, units 3 and 4 were expected to be completed by 2016 and 2017, respectively, and cost $7.3 billion. However, the units are now anticipated to be completed by 2021 and 2022 and cost an unbelievable $27 billion.
In August this year, the Vogtle plant's three owners - Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power Corporation and Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia - learned an additional $2.3 billion would be needed to complete the two additions, bringing the total cost to $27 billion, According to the Tampa Bay Times.
“Exorbitant cost overruns and continued delays, all of which are being shouldered by ratepayers across the Southeast, suggest that the Plant Vogtle expansion project is no longer just and reasonable, let alone consistent with prudent utility practices,” stated Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) Interim Managing Director Aaron Zahn.
Reactor No. 3 will stand 600 feet tall when it is completed at the Vogtle power plant.
Reactor No. 3 will stand 600 feet tall when it is completed at the Vogtle power plant.
Georgia Power
The Jacksonville Electric Authority agreed in 2008 to buy energy from Vogtle's two new reactors once they were up and running. But with the Vogtle project so far over-budget, JEA is now wanting to get out of the deal. JEA is asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which has jurisdiction over the contract to step in.
JEA is also petitioning a county court to find the agreement unenforceable because the local city council never approved it. And to make sure customers know the consequences of the project getting finished - if it ever does - JEA has taken out ads in Georgia newspapers that described the nuclear plant as “a mistake that will cost you and your children for years to come.”
Government threatens to demand repayment
Department of Energy said in a letter late Friday that if the construction project is canceled, the government is “prepared to move swiftly to fully enforce its rights under terms of the loan guarantee agreements, including the repayment provisions.”
Pushing the White House's energy initiative, the letter also pointed out the Vogtle project was the nation’s first large-scale nuclear project in more than 30 years and “a linchpin in the all-of-the-above energy strategy required to sustain our nation’s economic strength and energy independence.”
Vogtle nuclear power plant  Waynesboro  Georgia.
Vogtle nuclear power plant, Waynesboro, Georgia.
Georgia Power
All of this was playing out on Friday as Georgia lawmakers were discussing the cost-overruns at the site. A bipartisan group of lawmakers said they want a “cost cap” established to protect Georgians from getting gouged on their electricity bills.
And the fate of the Vogtle plant could be decided on Monday. Georgia Power's parent company, Southern Company, pledged that its shareholders would absorb its share of the costs. Georgia Power owns 45.7 percent, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG) owns 22.7 percent and Oglethorpe Power owns about 30 percent.
And herein lies the problem. Oglethorpe Power and MEAG have to make a decision to either pay up or pull out of the troubled project. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal wants the project completed, going so far as to send a letter to Oglethorpe Power on Thursday, encouraging completion of the project.
"Given the project's critical economic impact to the State of Georgia, I strongly encourage (the project's) co-owners to continue work and complete the construction," Deal said. "I am counting on the project co-owners to follow through on the commitments you made to the citizens of Georgia, ratepayers and myself."
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