Nuclear Update: Brother, Can You Spare $22 Billion?
The continuing meltdown of the so-called “nuclear renaissance” is just as visible in the tale of the one new commercial nuclear reactor site still under construction in the United States.
The two Vogtle reactors still being built in Georgia are now projected to cost more than $22 billion. Yes, that’s 22 billion with a “b”, twice their original projected cost and years behind schedule as well. Despite that, its owner (utility giant Southern Company) is recommending that the plant be completed.
The consumer advocacy group Georgia Watch estimates that just the $2 billion worth of Vogtle costs which have already been charged to Georgia ratepayers has added an average of $10/month to each of their electric bills. Plus, did we mention that the new $22 billion price tag estimate assumes that Congress will act to extend the project’s tax credits and taxpayer loan guarantees—and that Toshiba, the distressed Japanese parent corporation of bankrupt Westinghouse, will pitch in a promised $3.6 billion of the total?
What could possibly go wrong?
Skeptics can suggest quite a number of things, including the prospect that completing and operating the plant may never be economically viable. Groups including the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) have called for the Georgia Public Service Commission to open an emergency re-hearing on the decision to permit costs from the plant to be charged to ratepayers.
Far less than $22 billion would buy an enormous amount of reliable generating capacity from a combination of solar farms, wind turbines, and distribution grid improvements. None of those generate an ounce of radioactive waste, melt down in catastrophic accidents, or spill toxic wastes into rivers or groundwater.