Stopping Plant Vogtle has implications far beyond Georgia
By Courtney Hanson
In Georgia, it doesn’t take much convincing that Southern Company’s plan to expand nuclear Plant Vogtle by building two new nuclear reactors there, is a bad one.
Southern Company’s poor record of staying on budget, the current cost overruns, the fact that ratepayers and taxpayers are being forced to foot the nuclear bill ,othe high cancer rates in the communities near the plant and the early glitches in construction are no secret.
For Georgians, especially those living near the plant, nuclear power has historically meant the industry stealing our money to build their reactors that are ultimately making us sick and harming the environment.
But for the rest of the country, this Vogtle expansion project, the first two new nuclear reactors in the U.S. in 30 years, also as serious implications. Just ask the experts.
Georgia WAND attended and presented at the Know Nukes Y’all Summit last weekend in Chattanooga, TN . It was a gathering of anti-nuclear activists and organizers from across the country, networking, teaching, learning and strategizing. We were there, in great part, to talk about Plant Vogtle. And that’s just what we did.
The case against Voglte started in Georgia, but it’s spreading quickly. The general consensus at the summit was that Vogtle is ground zero for new nuclear in the U.S. It is the nuclear industry. It’s success, or impending failure, will decide the future of nuclear expansion in the rest of the US.
The AP 1000 reactor design being built at Plant Vogtle is the first generation III reactor to have an approved design certification from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, according Westinghouse, who designed the reactor. The design went through 19 revisions, with several community meetings for people to weigh in with their concerns about safety and more.
If the Voglte project is deemed a success, the NRC and nuclear industry will proceed to rubber stamp new AP1000 reactor projects. This will mean far fewer community meetings, fewer chances to evaluate the safety, fewer opportunities to people to speak up about what it will mean for the themselves, and environment in their areas. This process took years the first time around and that's time the nuclear industry doesn't have. They are so rushed, they've failed to implement new safety standards into the AP1000 design to accommodate lessons learned from Fukushima.
Furthermore, the project will become a financial model for new nuclear. This is clearly bad news for everyone besides power company executives.
Stopping Plant Vogtle will unarguably benefit Georgia residents. But it’s clear now that it will do much more than that. In the bigger fight to stop all nuclear, stopping Plant Vogtle is the all important first step.
Courtney Hanson is Public Outreach Director at Georgia WAND. She is a writer, environmental activist and women’s rights advocate in Atlanta. Prior to moving to the south, she worked as a journalist in Chicago, covering education, personalities, community events, women’s issues, homelessness and poverty