GA Power Suspends Work On Stewart County Nuclear Reactor Site

Georgia Power is shelving, at least temporarily, plans to add additional nuclear power generating capacity at a proposed plant in Stewart County, just south of Columbus. Dave Williams of the Atlanta Business Chronicle brings the news:

The PSC voted last summer to authorize Georgia Power to spend up to $99 million to cover the early stages of the project in Stewart County through the second quarter of 2019.

But since then, Toshiba Corp. has announced that subsidiary Westinghouse Electric Co. – the chief contractor currently building nuclear plants in South Carolina and at Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle – will stop constructing nuclear reactors. Last month, Toshiba blamed a projected $6.3 billion write-down on losses from its U.S. nuclear operations.

In a letter dated March 1, a lawyer representing Georgia Power wrote that the work in Stewart County is being suspended because demand projections show there will be no need for new nuclear generation of electricity until outside the utility’s three-year planning process.

Much of the risk for cost escalation at Plant Vogtle has been born by Toshiba Corp, which has taken a toll on that company. A suspension of planning for new nuclear capacity is prudent at this time to ensure that there will still be companies out there willing to undertake similar risk in the future.

The demand question seems settled: Georgia remains the 4th fastest growing state in the country, and the automotive world seems ready to begin a wholesale move toward plug in electric cars. How much of that demand can be met by renewables, and how much of that demand must be met by nuclear or carbon based baseline energy production (coal, natural gas, or diesel) remains the big question. If nuclear is to be part of the answer, finding another large corporation willing to take billions of dollars in long term construction risk to shield taxpayers and rate payers seems critical.

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