GA WAND in Atlanta Progressive News– ‘Georgia PSC Can’t Silence Nuclear Power Debate’
Atlanta Progressive News
By Gloria Tatum
(APN) Doug Everett, Member of the Georgia Public Service Commission, attempted to limit the scope of public remarks at a recent meeting of the PSC, on Wednesday, July 06, 2011, but could not prevent citizens from stating they do not want two new nuclear power reactors in Georgia at Plant Vogtle.
The nuclear disaster at Fukushima is a wake-up call that Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and other nations have heard; they are now saying no to nuclear energy.
But as these nations pause to rethink the dangers of nuclear energy and halt their nuclear plans, Georgia Power ignores the warnings and continues to push ahead with plans to build the two new reactors in Georgia.
Wednesday the PSC heard arguments on a risk sharing mechanism (RSM), a plan intended to protect consumers from cost over-runs on the two nuclear reactors planned at Plant Vogtle.
The RSM would change the policy so that Georgia Power is held accountable for their budget overruns.
The PSC will vote on the matter August 02.
The majority who testified did not want expansion of nuclear energy in Georgia because of the dangers it poses to the environment and people's health.
"It is the ratepayers who are paying the price for the ever-increasing cost of high-risk nuclear reactors," Bobbie Paul, Executive Director of Georgia Women's Action for New Directions (WAND), said during her remarks.
"Georgia Power has chosen this high-risk energy and they should be the ones who pay: their stockholders, their executives, and not the ratepayers," Paul said.
Georgia Power is already earning more than a billion dollars of early profit through Construction Work in Progress (CWIP). Most of that money goes directly to Georgia Power and their shareholders with only a small part of this tariff actually going to cover up-front costs.
This money is non-refundable even if the project is not completed. Now Georgia Power wants ratepayers to pay for even more of the costs if things go wrong.
Georgia ratepayers have already been soaked for 108 million dollars in unexpected over-budget expenditures to settle a contract dispute between Georgia Power and Westinghouse-Shaw.
"The public is not served by granting profit-seeking companies pickpocket access to the public treasury. Nuclear technology is expensive, risky, polluting, and dangerous. It's time to consider solar, wind, and conservation," Tom Ferguson testified.
PSC member Doug Everett interrupted Ferguson, "We are not here to discuss whether or not we are going to build a nuclear plant - that has already been decided. We are here today to discuss risk sharing on the construction project. I want you to keep your remarks to that subject because the plant is going to be built."
"The public has a right to say what they want to say," Glenn Carroll, Coordinator with Nuclear Watch South, told Everett. "Let's talk about risk sharing. This is my analogy. You are going to shoot me and you're going to let me pick whether it's with a .22 or .45. I'm still going to negotiate for you not to shoot me."
"This is the first time we have met since the multiple meltdowns in Japan. Now we understand the dangers of four reactors at one site. Out of this unimaginable tragedy they are turning off two-thirds of their nuclear plants and replacing their nuclear power with solar and wind energy. In 2010, renewables like solar, wind, and geothermal contributed more to the global energy picture than nuclear," Carroll said.
"Southern Company got sold a bill of goods by the federal government and then got a flawed reactor design from Westinghouse. How can the PSC help Georgia Power get off the hook for this lousy deal?" Carroll asked.
Georgia Power's original estimate for construction costs was 6.1 billion dollars.
If Georgia Power keeps its share of construction costs below 5.8 billion dollars--lower than the original estimate--the PSC has a plan to allow them to earn more money from the new reactors.
But if building costs exceed 6.4 billion dollars, the PSC would lower the company's earnings.
"We're trying to get something the Commission would be more comfortable adopting. It's better than no risk sharing mechanism," Tom Newsome, an internal consultant with the PSC, testified.
The original two reactors built, Vogtle 1 and 2, were budgeted at under one billion dollars, but the final bill was nearly nine billion. The ratepayers picked up most of the difference.
Paul said the cost-sharing discussion is a reasonable time to try to block the reactors' construction altogether, even though the Commission has already approved it.
"The expansion of Vogtle is not a done deal for four reasons," Paul said. "First, no license to construct and operate these plants has been issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)," Paul said.
"Secondly, Vogtle 3 & 4 exists on paper only and is now in their eighteenth design revision. The NRC has yet to rule on their safety. The Westington AP 1000 reactor has been legally challenged in court as not safe," Paul said.
"Third, there is no resolution on the legal intervention to challenge the federal loan guarantee with the Department of Energy (DOE) for Vogtle. They have gotten 8.3 billion dollars and have everything in place and it's still not enough," Paul said.
"Fourth, no decision on the emergency petition filed with the NRC to put a stop on re-licensing of new nuclear reactors. Since Fukushima and in light of the new information under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by law they must stop and have a study on the new information," Paul explained.
Two corporate executives testified separately that the utility would not have considered expanding its nuclear plant if the profit-trimming proposal had been adopted before their decision.
"As a member of the management team of the company, if this mechanism had been part of the original certification, we very likely would have not proceeded," Ann Daiss, Georgia Power's chief accounting officer, said during her remarks.
This was an apparent admission that Georgia Power cannot build the two new reactors within the projected budget and they do not want to be responsible for any budget overruns.
No insurance company will issue a policy against a nuclear accident. It will be the ratepayers and all the residents in Georgia who will bear the financial cost and health consequence of a nuclear accident.
Atlanta Progressive News has previously reported extensively on the dangers of nuclear power in Georgia in terms of water usage and radioactive pollution.
Additional dangers are listed in a report "U.S. Nuclear Accidents" by Allen Lutins.
"In 1988, The National Research Council panel released a report listing 30 'significant unreported incidents' at the Savannah River production plants over the previous 30 years," the report states.
"In 1989, scientists discovered a fault running under the entire Savannah River site through which contaminants reached the underground aquifer, a major source of drinking water for the southeast. Turtles in nearby ponds were found to contain radioactive strontium of up to 1,000 times the normal background level," the report states.