State regulators want more money to monitor nuclear project
ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia regulators want more money to pay outside consultants to help keep track of the Plant Vogtle nuclear project.
The Georgia Public Service Commission’s staff is requesting an unprecedented additional $3.6 million for 2019. That’s up from the existing $1.1 million in independent contractor monitoring funds, WABE Radio reported .
Plant Vogtle, near Augusta, is the only nuclear power plant under construction in the nation.
The two new reactors — Vogtle 3 and 4 — were expected to cost Georgia Power $4.4 billion and be completed in April 2016 and April 2017, respectively. Now, the projected cost is $8.4 billion plus $3.2 billion in financing costs.
The projected completion dates for the reactors are November 2021 and November 2022.
Georgia Power is one of four owners and is now managing construction through its sister company, Southern Nuclear. It took over after Westinghouse declared bankruptcy last year.
“We don’t want any billion-dollar surprises all of a sudden,” Steven Roetger, a commission staff member, told commissioners at a recent meeting.
“We want to be able to have an independent assessment that we can rely on and that we hope the commission can also rely on, that either validates what the company is stating or perhaps they’ll have a different opinion,” he said.
The Public Service Commission’s staff needs the outside consultants and expertise to properly do the job of keeping track of the construction progress, Roetger said.
“We have an obligation to perform the best job that we can,” he said. “This is a big ask. We understand that; 2019 and 2020 are critical years for this project.”
Now that Southern Nuclear is managing construction, the Public Service Commission is also now responsible for evaluating more information because much of what Westinghouse did was kept private, as it was a private company with a fixed contract, WABE reported.
The commission needs to keep careful track of Georgia Power’s decisions because after the plant is finished, the commission will go through and retroactively evaluate whether the utility’s decisions were actually “prudent” and litigate them if necessary, Roetger said.
When Liz Coyle, executive director of Georgia Watch, asked Roetger whether this “additional resource” would be important for staff to “be prepared” for that prudency review process, he said their ability is “dependent” on it.
The commission is expected to decide on the request in February.
Information from: WABE-FM, http://www.wabe.org/