With abundant justification, much has been written about the colossally expensive, publicly subsidized, $30 billion fiasco known as the Plant Vogtle nuclear power plant expansion. That’s twice the amount on the venture’s original price tag.
Despite claiming to be devout proponents of “free enterprise,” executives and investors hyping this project benefit from an unprecedented $12 billion taxpayer bailout (increase pending) and – so far – more than $2 billion in state-mandated payments by residential power customers in advance of the boondoggle’s completion.
Contrary to what Georgia Power promoters assured members of Georgia’s Public Service Commission when the project was approved in 2009, cost overruns and delays have plagued the scheme. These problems were explicitly predicted by the many opponents of Vogtle’s expansion, but the PSC – in keeping with Georgia’s biased political tradition – gave undeserved benefit-of-doubt to GP executives.
Opponents of nuclear power have described deploying nuclear reactors to provide electricity for homes and offices as “using a chainsaw to cut butter” because of the massive and risky hardware needed, not to mention the daunting dilemma of storing highly toxic radioactive-waste for centuries – for which there remains no acceptable “solution” after decades of searching.
The chainsaw metaphor resonates with even greater relevance now, as solar and wind-power costs have plummeted, and they’re successfully competing in markets for reliable energy. In the past year, clean-energy use grew by 17 percent, and clean-power jobs now exceed those supported by all other forms of energy combined.
From this perspective, the Vogtle gambit is attempting to “cut butter” with a very pricey chainsaw.
St. Simons Island
The writer is executive director for the environmental advocacy group Center for a Sustainable Coast.