Updates from the last Georgia Public Service Commission Hearing on Plant Vogtle

By Sydney Pegues, Public Health Grassroots Organizing and Communications Intern

Georgia’s Plant Vogtle reactors 3 and 4 are the only new nuclear energy reactors currently being built in the U.S.

The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) met on December 18, 2018 to discuss the progress of construction on Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4. During this hearing, the PSC’s staff requested an additional $3.6 million in 2019, this is up from the existing $1.1 million in independent contractor monitoring funds. This request was justified by commission staff member, Steven Roetger, who  revealed that once construction is completed on the nuclear reactors, the PSC will be conducting a prudency review. It is unclear what criteria the commission will be using to determine ‘prudency,’ but the commission will be retroactively investigating Georgia Power’s decisions during the construction process. The commission has also stated that following the prudency review, it will litigate the utility company if deemed necessary. Roetgers stated the prudency review is dependent upon the independent contractor monitoring.   

A decision on the request to grant the additional funds will not be made until the next PSC hearing on Plant Vogtle, which isn’t until February 21, 2019. Should the PSC vote to increase the funds, ratepayers will the ones shouldering the cost. The current cost of installing the two nuclear reactor is projected to be $11.6 billion, nearly triple the original cost of $4.4 billion. The nuclear reactors are expected to be completed and online in November 2020 and November 2021, respectively. This is unbelievable considering the reactors were originally expected to be online in April 2016 and April 2017. This new completion date looks like a pipe dream as well. According to testimony submitted to the PSC during the hearing, a lack of skilled labor is a challenge preventing the construction from being completed on schedule. This was refuted by a representative of Georgia Power. 

As construction is only about 60% complete on the nuclear reactors, we will all be watching anxiously to see if the first of the two nuclear reactors will be complete and online by the projected November 2020 deadline. Productivity has increased at Plant Vogtle since Southern Company (parent company of Georgia) took over managing construction, per admission by commission staff, but it unsure whether it is enough to keep construction on schedule. The previous management company, Westinghouse, went bankrupt in 2017, causing a critical delay in construction. Westinghouse was a private company with a confidential contract, as such, much of their dealings and spending endeavors were kept from the PSC. There is now an expectation of transparency with the construction that there was not previously, as the PSC already regulates Georgia Power. 

The nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle are the only new nuclear reactors underway in the country after construction of the VC Summer nuclear project in South Carolina was abandoned. Whatever happens at Plant Vogtle determines the fate of nuclear in the United States. This year, Georgia Power is launching an updated version of their Integrated Resource Plan. The revised plan will not be submitted until next week, and is rumored to include a resiliency plan.   

To learn more, send an email to Jumana Master at Jumana@georgiawand.org.