August 4, 2008

Plant Vogtle Output May Double The Nuclear Power Plan Would Add Construction Costs to Customers’ Bills.


ATLANTA - Georgia Power filed a plan with state regulators Friday that, if approved, would nearly double the output of nuclear power at Plant Vogtle and could lead to one of the largest wood-burning biomass power plants in the country.

In a filing with the Public Service Commission, Georgia Power said adding two 1,100-megawatt nuclear reactors to the two existing reactors at Plant Vogtle would add $12 to customers' bills when the reactors come online in 2018.

The company estimates the units would save customers between $2 billion and $6.5 billion in generation costs during their lifetime, when compared with similarly sized coal-powered units, and between $1 billion and $6.5 billion when compared to a natural gas-fired plant.

The expansion is estimated to cost about $14 billion, with Georgia Power paying 45.7 percent of the cost. Three other utilities - Oglethorpe Power Corp., Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Dalton Utilities - will pick up the rest of the tab.

The filing includes a request that regulators allow Georgia Power to add construction costs to customers' bills before work begins, which the company estimates could reduce cost of construction by up to 30 percent.

The PSC is expected to make a decision on the expansion proposal, which still needs the go-ahead from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in March.

Opponents to the expansion say new reactors are not needed, and that the amount of water the reactors would draw from the Savannah River, estimated at 70 to 80 million gallons a day, is ill-timed given the drought gripping the southeast.

Environmental lobbyist Neil Herring said Georgia Power could buy additional capacity from out-of-state power companies at the Plant Scherer nuclear power plant near Macon.

"We could have plenty of low-cost power available instantly," Herring said.

Herring also said allowing the company to charge for construction before the reactors are in use gives little incentive for preventing cost overruns.

Georgia Power also told the PSC it is nearly finished evaluating the conversion of Plant Mitchell, an older coal-fired plant near Albany, to burn wood biomass.

In a written statement, Georgia Power President and CEO Mike Garrett said the company needs to add large-scale power generation while increasing emphasis on renewable energy sources.

Natural gas prices have risen 400 percent since 2002, and the cost of coal has more than doubled this year, Garrett noted.

"Additional nuclear energy capacity will help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, at a time when fossil fuel prices are increasing significantly," Garrett [email protected], (404) 589-8424

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