Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) wants to keep two under-construction reactors in the Voggle destruction plant alive According to the proposal offered by Commissioner Tim Echols and unanimously supported by the rest of the PSC, the plant would take Georgia’s largest power plant to place some of the financial burden of completing the project on ratepayers (that is, utility customers). .
Vogtle is the only nuclear plant currently under construction in the US, and that’s it the first new nuclear reactor construction to begin in three decades when it was ordered in 2006. (Unit 2 of the The Watts-Bar power plant came online in 2016but construction began in 1976. Construction of the 80% complete reactor was put on hold in the 1980s.)
With some incentives for completion included in the PSC proposal, the reactors are now expected to come online in 2021 and 2022.
The reactor build-out project faced cancellation this year after nuclear developer Westinghouse explained why. The Vogtle reactors have been repeatedly delayed (they were originally supposed to come online in 2016 and 2017) and are surprisingly over budget.
Georgia Power said it would need an additional $8.9 billion to complete the project. But Toshiba, the parent company that owns Westinghouse, recently paid Vogtle’s owners a guarantee of $3.68 billion, so the Georgia PSC approved a price request of $7.3 billion. (Use your Toshiba money to finance the rest, was PSC’s message.) With financial expenses, the total amount required to bring the project to completion is expected to be around $10.5 billion.
That would bring the total cost to build the two new Vogtle reactors to more than $25 billion. A new reactor design was approved in 2006.
The Vogtle expansion, which will add a third and fourth reactor to the existing two reactors, is about 40 percent complete, such as Florida Times-Union. Its counterpart, the Summer nuclear expansion, also aims to add two reactors to the existing two-reactor plant in South Carolina. But that expansion was only 35 percent complete when Westinghouse announced the move. Facing more than $11.5 billion in additional construction costs to complete, the project’s 45-percent owner, Santee Cooper, said it would walk away from the project. Summer is not expected to end.
Nukes vs natural gas
The Georgia PSC’s vote to advance Vogtle is interesting appears to depend on predictions about the price of natural gas in the future. Owners of the plant expansion argue that construction should continue because new reactors will become cost-effective if natural gas prices rise in the future. PSC’s internal calculations suggest that natural gas prices will not rise, and therefore reactor expansion will not be economical. “Everyone agrees that both analyzes depend heavily on the forecast of future natural gas prices, and we all agree that we don’t have a crystal ball on that,” Commissioner Echols wrote. in your advice. “I don’t want to rely on anyone’s slide-picture prediction today of future gas prices as a basis for abandoning nearly $5 billion that has already been invested in 60 to 80-year earnings.”
The advance from Georgia’s PSC is not discretionary—it allows the PSC to re-approve its approval if certain nuclear tax credits are not approved. According to Utility Dive: “The recently passed tax bill did not extend the PTC, although Sen. Lisa Murkowski told Utility Dive that they may include it in the taxpayers’ package next year.”
To ensure that these reactors remain on schedule, the PSC provision reduces the return on equity that Vogtle owners can receive every month after June 1, 2021 for reactor three and June 1, 2022 for reactor four.
The proposal also authorizes an additional 5MW of local solar to be in place at Vogtle because of “the need to continue to develop other carbon-free sources of generation.” Utilities and regulators have come to different conclusions about how best to develop carbon-free energy. In August, Duke Energy Florida decided to cancel plans to build a nuclear plant in western Florida and instead begin expanding 700MW of solar power around the company’s service area.
Amendment: This article originally stated that eventually, Vogtle will be the first online nuclear power in the US in three decades. However, the reactors are only the first to start construction in three years. Watts-Bar started construction in the 70s and came online in 2016.