PSC votes to continue Vogtle construction on artificial life support threatening Georgia economy

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE)Georgia Public Service Commission chairman Stan Wise revealed earlier that the political fix was in on the vote to extend the construction of Plant Vogtle Units 3 & 4 telling a local radio station the day before the commission vote. “This commission will not say, ‘Do not continue this plant.” The PSC granted Georgia Power's proposal for an increased cost of $12.2 billion and an added delay of 29 months to 2021 and 2022. Even these estimates are likely to prove grossly inadequate to chase after completion of the project. Votgle 3 &4 was the first U.S. new reactor project to be approved for construction in 2012. It was originally scheduled for operation in 2017.

The PSC vote gives new meaning and absurdity to “pouring good money after bad” with the inestimable proportions of mismanagement and cost overrun that the continuation of Vogtle construction portends for Georgia's economy.

The vote came despite the backdrop of the bankruptcy of Westinghouse/Toshiba stemming from the financial risk carried by the astronomically expensive design and predictably mismanged construction of the two AP1000 pressurized water reactors.  Even the PSC’s own staff had warned through well-founded analysis “that the completion of the project is no longer economic on a to-go (forward looking) basis given the additional costs and schedule delays.”  The staff further concluded that if Georgia Power is allowed to continue construction the purposed financial conditions should be “modified” so that the utility and its investors bear the risk and not passed on through advance charges to ratepayers. A $1.2 billion penalty is inculded in the decision on what Georgia Power can collect from future ratepayers but the decision but hardly punitive considering the overall bailout saddled to ratepayers. 

Advancing chronic high construction costs to ratepayers and eventually higher electric rates for Georgians inevitably undermines the state and region’s economy. 

The historical failure of the nuclear power industry to manage the cost-of-completion and time-to completion has been the writing on the wall now for decades. An industry tens of billions of dollars over budget and many years behind scheduled first grabbed the Forbes business journal 1983 cover story “Nuclear Follies.” Nothing has changed. The first two units at Vogtle had colossal construction cost overruns which jumped from $660 million to nearly $9 billion before becoming operational. The PSC vote essentially writes a blank check for a new chapter in the most expensive and wasteful way to boil water for steam generated electricity.

The state regulatory decision to stumble on seeking the completion of the Vogtle 3 and 4 nuclear power station keeps the last vestige of new reactor construction alive in the U.S.. The nation’s only other new reactor construction for two Westinghouse AP1000 units at the V.C. Summer site in South Carolina was suspended in July 2017 because of unaffordable cost overruns and an unpredictably delayed completion schedule.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) has put out its statement of disbelief and defiance to the state regulators’ decision. The fight for the democratization of energy continues as well. 


Tide is turning as Japanese anti-nuclear activists win in high court

From the Japan Times:

Wednesday’s ruling by the Hiroshima High Court halting the planned restart of a nuclear reactor in Ehime Prefecture has cast doubt on the judgment of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority — which had approved the restart under stricter post-Fukushima guidelines — shocking the government and utilities across the nation.

The ruling deals a heavy blow to a plan by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration to bring more reactors back online, and is sure to prompt the government and utilities to keep a closer eye on similar cases continuing across the country.

Yuichi Kaido, a lawyer representing local residents, called the ruling the “most important” since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, spurred by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

About 40 court cases — including those seeking injunctions — were filed in the wake of the Fukushima meltdown disaster. But while district courts have ordered some reactors stopped, each shutdown decision has been overturned by a high court.

“This is the first time (plaintiffs) have won at the high court level,” Kaido said at a news conference in Tokyo. He said the ruling may signal a turn of the tide.



Grass gets even longer around UK's planned nuclear site in Cumbria

The grass was already growing long — and over — the Nugen sign at the site of the Cumbria UK proposed new 3-reactor site when the project got kicked a bit further into the long grass.

The original proposal was for three Toshiba-Westinghouse AP-1000 reactors, but with Westinghouse bankrupt, Toshiba unloading its nuclear burdens, and French partner Engie also pulling out, the NuGen “consortium” quickly found itself with a great big “vacancy” sign.

Now comes an announcement that South Korean nuclear company, Kepco, plans to buy Toshiba out of the Cumbria nuclear project early next year. While appearing to keep this unnecessary scheme alive, the move will likely delay it even further. Kepco would replace the AP-1000s with its own design, requiring a startover in the certification process. Even though the current Conservative UK government is intent on pursuing expensive, slow and cumbersome nuclear power literally at all costs, pushing Moorside this far into the future should signal its permanent demise.

NuGen’s CEO, Tom Samson, has already started to backpedal, suggesting that the Moorside plans would shrink to two reactors and use Kepcos APR-1400 design which is smaller than the AP-1000. However, there is no signed deal yet. And if the optimists — i.e. NuGen itself — are predicting a startup date “towards the end of the 2020s or the 2030s,” the reality is more likely later, or never. 


Fihn and Thurlow accept Nobel Peace Prize at all women ceremony

Two women, spanning generations and cultures, accepted the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, presented by a third woman, Berit Reiss-Andersen, Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The prize, which was announced on October 6, went to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). ICAN received the award, said Reiss-Andersen, “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.” The prize was accepted by ICAN’s 34-year old executive director, Beatrice Fihn of Sweden, and 85-year old hibakusha, Setsuko Thurlow of Japan, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. In her acceptance remarks, Fihn thanked the many thousands of members of ICAN and others who made the win possible, saying that “we represent the only rational choice. We represent those who refuse to accept nuclear weapons as a fixture in our world, those who refuse to have their fates bound up in a few lines of launch code.” Thurlow, who was 13 at the time of the Hiroshima bombing, spoke vividly of the horrors she witnessed. “Today, I want you to feel in this hall the presence of all those who perished in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” she said. “I want you to feel, above and around us, a great cloud of a quarter million souls. Each person had a name. Each person was loved by someone. Let us ensure that their deaths were not in vain.” Watch the entire ceremony.


Uranium firm urged Trump officials to shrink Bears Ears National Monument

As reported by Juliet Eilperin in the Washington Post.

Mary Papenfuss also reported on this story in Huffington Post, including that a coalition of environmental groups, Native American nations, scientists, and businesses are countering the Trump administration's attacks on national monuments in Utah in court.

The HuffPosrt article reports: "The [uranium company's hired] lobbying team was headed by Andrew Wheeler, whom Trump has tapped to be deputy secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Wheeler is awaiting Senate confirmation."

Please phone both your U.S. Senators via the Capitol Switchboard (202-224-3121) and urge that they do everything in their power to block Andrew Wheeler's confirmation as EPA deputy secretary.

Combined with Michael Flynn's reported involvement in promoting dozens of new atomic reactors in Saudi Arabia, including Russian industry involvement, nuclear power-related schemes have risen to the top of the list of biggest scandals and controversies plaguing the Trump administration's first 11 months in office.