Group pushes for Vogtle loan guarantee details

An environmental group will return to court in efforts to compel the U.S. Department of Energy to tell more details about $8.33 billion in federal loan guarantees pledged to the owners of nuclear Plant Vogtle.

“There are two main things we want,” said Mindy Goldstein, an attorney representing the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “We want the terms and conditions of the loan guarantees themselves, and also the credit subsidy fee estimate – the amount the power companies have to put down to get these loan guarantees.”

Plant Vogtle’s owners plan to use the loan guarantees to build two new reactors at the Burke County site.

Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power – which owns a 45.7 percent stake in Vogtle – would borrow up to $3.4 billion, with other co-owners borrowing lesser amounts.

The funding is on hold until the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issues a combined operating license for Vogtle Units 3 and 4, which would go online in 2016 and 2017 at a cost estimated at $14.5 billion.

The Southern Alliance filed a federal Freedom of Information Act request for details of the loan guarantee in 2010, but so far has received heavily edited documents that do not include the specifics of the loans.

The public deserves access to details of such a large loan that taxpayers ultimately will be responsible for, Goldstein said.

“We believe it is important public information that is wrongfully being withheld,” she said.

A DOE spokesman, however, said some of the details of the proposed agreement are proprietary because the range of numbers was computed through an analysis of confidential financial data provided by the applicant.

A Southern Co. spokesman also said the details are proprietary because the precise terms would not become final until the combined operating license is issued.

“The terms of the DOE loan guarantee are confidential during negotiations as part of the agency’s process,” the spokesman said. “Further, the terms are considered competitive information and are therefore treated as confidential. The interest rate as well as credit subsidy will be among the final terms agreed to by the DOE and Southern Co.”

Company officials say the final licenses needed to begin construction of the units could be issued late this year or early in 2012.

Read the lawsuit

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