Opinion: Ga. Power, Southern Co. have nuked their credibility

(AJC)

It really is hard to believe.

Eight years after Georgia Power officials confidently assured us that they had this nuclear thing figured out, that two new units at Plant Vogtle could be brought in on budget and on time, leading a supposed renaissance in the U.S. nuclear industry, it’s all in danger of collapsing.

The projected cost of those units has almost doubled, to $25 billion and counting. Completion is still years away, and the prime contractor has gone bankrupt. Last month, construction of two similar units in South Carolina, facing similar cost overruns and delays, was abandoned after it became clear that the additional investment needed to complete the units could not be justified.

Now it’s Georgia’s turn.

Right from the start, experts had warned the Georgia Public Service Commission about the dangers inherent in restarting the American nuclear industry almost from scratch, using new and untested technology in a field in which the margin of error is tiny because the cost of failure is so huge. From the start, Georgia Power and its partners confidently and aggressively dismissed those warnings, basically steamrolling all opposition.

Yet even as it issued those assurances, Georgia Power also made sure that its own corporate interests would be protected in case its critics proved correct. Using its considerable influence at the PSC and in the Legislature, the utility rewrote state law and state policy to ensure that all of the financial risks inherent in such a venture would be placed on the backs of the ratepayers, and none on its own shareholders.

Then it began. As reports of delays and overruns began to filter out, the company would deny or downplay them. When those problems became too obvious to deny, the company often claimed that they had been anticipated all along. And time and again, when it issued new cost projections and completion dates, those estimates would prove wildly optimistic.

For example, under the original schedule, both new units at Vogtle should already be on line and producing power. Those estimates have been repeatedly pushed back to the point that in early 2015, the company was forced to admit that completion was still five years in the future.

Now that schedule has once again been pushed back, with completion still another four to six years away. Put another way, more than two years have passed and hundreds of millions if not billions have been spent, and by the company’s own admission we are no closer to those units producing power than we were in 2015.

Maybe that perpetually sliding timetable reflects a lack of corporate honesty. Maybe it’s a repeated failure by Georgia Power and its parent Southern Co. to fully grasp their undertaking. Probably, it’s a bit of both. Whatever the cause, that long record of inaccurate projections and timelines makes it impossible to build policy on any new projections that the company produces.

Yet later this month, Southern Co. officials will recommend whether to continue dumping billions of dollars into its nuclear expansion at Vogtle. If their recommendation is yes, they will be asking the ratepayers of Georgia to make an enormous multi-billion-dollar leap of faith, even after previous such leaps of faith have fallen short.

Well, this time, the ratepayers will require company in that leap. This time, the PSC must do its job of protecting the public by ensuring that if Vogtle moves forward, Southern Co. will share significantly in the financial risk of doing so.

Reader Comments 0

1673 comments
Kamchak
Kamchak

Fiery and Furious SHEETZ

paige-
paige-

online jobs start earning at home...

I am impressed that  people can get paid $11k  in one month on the internet 


. try this site.............  >./http://tiny.cc/online-jobs-USA

gotalife
gotalife

mattis calls for regimre change in NK with God's approval of course.

honested
honested

@gotalife 

Barry Goldwater was right, letting these religious freaks into high positions was the stupidest thing the republiklan party has ever done.

Peachs
Peachs

Manafort can now tellTrump they raided me, I didn't rat on you they busted in my house and got your taxes off my desk..

gotalife
gotalife

trump is wasting taxpayer money on lawyer welfare for a distraction from his crimes.

Kamchak
Kamchak

...Latrina...bathroom...toilet wand...

gotalife
gotalife

trump used the transgender tweet because he thought media were going to run the manafort raid.


A lawsuit on that tweet was filed today.

Peachs
Peachs

Manafort can room with Snowden!

gotalife
gotalife

The documents are said to include notes Manafort took while attending a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in June 2016.

So busted.

Peachs
Peachs

Hillary!s child sex ring..

Peachs
Peachs

Georgia Power should bring in some North Korean engineers and see if they can't cut some of that $6 billion waste and get ahead of the schedule instead of behind it.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

oh, hey, Andy? Scootter?

Saw your request down below. I don't blame you for avoiding the cooties over at Kyle's Island of Lost Toys. Herewith my comment:

Our nation's 30-year experiment with replacing defined pensions with 401(k)s is an unmitigated disaster.

To which Kyle rather wryly replied:

Teaching a class on hyperbole today, eh?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@gapeach101

I actually like Kyle for what he is, which is as principled a self-identifying conservative as you'll find 'round these parts. He doesn't post anything without facts to back it up, and while we often disagree I rarely think he's doing deliberate rhetorical end-runs.

I guess you could say he helps to keep me honest at times, which is about the highest praise you can heap upon a political opposite.

(It doesn't hurt that he clearly does not care for Trump at all, and while he gives Trump far more leeway than I ever would he catches a lot of grief from the right wing regulars for it.)

Peachs
Peachs

In about another week that NK missile will reach all the way to south Ga. Kyle constituency thought a few dozen poorly organized terrorist kept them awake at night..

gapeach101
gapeach101

Kyle doesn't understand that his world is not everyone's world. It's like he's fifteen.

Peachs
Peachs

Wouldn't you be mad living in a multimillion dollar neighborhood and some bum next door is waking you up with all that racket!

Peachs
Peachs

A lot of that in our state!

honested
honested

@gapeach101 

I've given up on the notion of 'principled conserrrrrrrvative' as a mythical being that never existed.

gapeach101
gapeach101

I soured on Kyle when he was addressing a SPLOT and said, vote for it if it helps you, vote against if it doesn't. Didn't seem very principled to me.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

Now we know why Trump wants to nuke the world, he can't fire Muller and stop the investigation. 

Peachs
Peachs

If he just could remember where he put that football..

Peachs
Peachs

Gowdy vs Mueller another intellectual observation!

honested
honested

@Peachs 

or all those numbers you have to remember to use it.

Peachs
Peachs

He might call Putin and ask him for those numbers..

Peachs
Peachs

I'm serious Gowdy should be on the front row learning how to do this stuff! How much money did Gowdy spend on his fishing expedition? And who knew you could just go get a warrant?

Kamchak
Kamchak

@Peachs 

Little Kenny-boy Starr spent $52 million to investigate Whitewater.

Peachs
Peachs

The art of locking em up!

rdh
rdh

And, what do you bet, if the PSC says that Southern Company investors will be on hook, then the project will be mothballed.


AND TO EVERYONE READING:  this event has shown that the PSC is NOT working in the public's best interest. They are working in the Southern Company's investor's interest.   VOTE THEM OUT.

honested
honested

@rdh 

Or quietly pony up an extra $25.00 a month, forever (to no value).

KUTGF
KUTGF

@Visual_Cortex  And as often said, when the 3 AM call comes in, do you really want Trump responding with a tweet?

Peachs
Peachs

Her book royalty just doubled..