Nearly a billion dollars of cost overruns are currently in dispute at Georgia Power’s nuclear construction site at Plant Vogtle near Augusta.
Despite concerns from ratepayers, who may be asked to pay the extra costs in the future, Governor Nathan Deal says he remains committed to the project.
“I’m pleased we’re moving forward with it,” said Deal in a recent interview with WABE. “Energy is going to continue to be an issue for states like ours that continue to grow. We have to have good, affordable energy.”
Deal is following the $14 billion project closely and reiterated previous Georgia Power statements claiming the new reactors will come in at or near budget due to lower-than-expected financing rates.
“I am told that extra expenditures have been offset in part at least,” said Deal. “There’s a balancing act going on in the overall structure of funding.”
The two new reactors are the first to be built in the U.S. in a generation. Many Georgians still painfully recall the construction of Vogtle’s first pair of reactors in the 1980s. Georgia Power went 800 percent over budget due to poor management and increased federal oversight after the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.
So far, the current reactor project has at least $950 million in cost overruns, but Deal defends Georgia Power’s performance to date.
“Hopefully the federal regulators will not be so onerous in their additional regulations that they shoot the cost of the project up because it is indeed that that is the driver of those extra costs,” said Deal.
But ratepayer advocates say cost overruns would be much worse if federal regulators weren’t doing their jobs.
“If they catch something that is wrong or perhaps wasn’t verified properly, they’re being successful,” said Sara Barczak, who is tracking the project for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
“You have a federal agency put in place to protect the environment and community if there were an accident so they have to make sure they’re doing things right.”
Citing testimony by the state’s official project inspector, Barczack said cost overruns are due mostly to poor management on the part of Georgia Power and its contractors.
“Actually the regulators, I would argue, saved money because if they catch these problems – which they have so far – on the front end, it costs less than, say, two years down the road after all the concrete is poured, and then finding out.”
Barzack said Georgia Power ratepayers should be concerned about extra project costs – costs, she says, that may end up on their bills.