Georgia Power's Vogtle plan draws complaints, protests

ATLANTA -- Local activists and citizens braved the cold this morning to demand the Public Service Commission reject Georgia Power’s multibillion-dollar proposal to expand nuclear Plant Vogtle.

 

The proposal to build two additional reactors at the existing plant on the Savannah River near Augusta would call for consumers to begin paying for the construction with immediate rate increases.

The company argues ratepayers will save money in the long run by not building up financing charges. And, it says the expanded plant will produce electricity with essentially no air emissions and minimal thermal impact on the river, according to a company report.

However, some activists are still unconvinced the plant will do more good than harm to consumers.

“Certain issues need to be addressed before a rate hike is even considered,” said Tanya Bonitatibus, communications director of Savannah Riverkeeper.

Apart from health concerns, the proposed expansion would double water consumption out of the Savannah River, from 1 percent of the average daily flow to 2 percent, according to the company.

“Two more reactors would mean more than 80 million gallons of water per day out of the Savannah River Basin,” Patty Durand, executive director of the Georgia Sierra Club, said in her address to about 25 protesters gathered outside the Commission office.

“We ask that they look out for the best interests of all Georgians,” said Krista Brewer, president of Georgia’s Women’s Action for New Directions. “We are all volunteers or we’re poorly paid staff. We don’t have the money for fancy lawyers or expensive lobbyists, but we feel we are on the right side of this issue.”

he expansion has been estimated to cost about $14 billion, with Georgia Power expected to share $6.4 billion of the cost for 45 percent of the plant output. The PSC’s advocacy staff recommended the commission reject the financing plan, but a final decision will not be made until March 17.

“(The current finance plan) is the ultimate monopoly abuse of rate payment,” said lobbyist Neill Herring. “They are basically saying ‘If you don’t give us the money for this plant, we’re gonna cut off your electricity.’

“They may not finish that plant; you may not need that plant; you may not get any power from that plant, and they don’t know how much it’s going to cost, but they want your money.”

Annie Laura Stephens, a Waynesboro resident, made the three-hour drive to Atlanta with her son and brother, to voice her concerns about health risks of expanding the plant in close proximity to residents.

“We are on the suffering end of it,” Ms. Stephens, who has recently lost several relatives to cancer, told the commission at a public hearing following the protest. “You can have a (nuclear) plant and kill all the people, then what will you have?”

One speaker became frustrated with the five-minute time limit, rushing to explain a stack of data even after the Commission Chair Doug Everett called for him to step down. Others used the time to express their concerns as energy consumers, and one simply asked the lawyers, lobbyists and activists in the crowded room to bow their heads in prayer.

“We feel this is a bold and needless move by Georgia Power,” Ms. Brewer told commissioners.

“The world is littered with problems made from poor decisions on energy,” Ms. Durand said to a smattering of applause from protesters. “Georgia Power is no different. It’s a terrible idea.”

The Public Service Commission will hold public hearings on the nuclear certification through Friday.

Amanda Woodruff can be reached at mnews@morris.com or (404) 589-8424.

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