Vogtle price tag lower than expected for Georgia Power

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ATLANTA -- The official price tag for Georgia Power’s share of two new reactors at Plant Vogtle is now $1.5 billion lower than when the company originally requested permission to build them, according to testimony Tuesday before the Georgia Public Service Commission.

The company also told the regulatory panel that construction is on schedule and within budget so far.

The testimony by company executive Jeffrey Burleson came during the commission’s first, semi-annual hearing to oversee the cost of the construction.

“The actual schedule itself is a Georgia Power Company trade secret,” Burleson told the five commissioners.

The commissioners reviewed copies of the secret data during the two-hour hearing, and no details were revealed during the questions crafted to avoid disclosure. Lawyers for consumer and business groups who signed confidentiality agreements also have access to the secrets, but none questioned Burleson when given the chance to cross examine him.

Projected construction costs dropped, Burleson said, because the company is avoiding some interest by charging its customers for the reactors before they begin operation. A law and a commission decision, both enacted earlier this year, allow the company to break from normal practice and pass along expenses to ratepayers while construction is in progress.

The company had argued consumers would see a savings if the controversial law and decision went their way, and Burleson said the lower cost projection proves it. Many consumer groups had fought the change, warning that frequent safety-design changes often drive up the price of commercial reactors before operation.

Commission attorney Jeffrey Stair brought up the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s delay in issuing a license for the reactors because it wants more information about the design of the building that would contain the radiation from the atmosphere. Burleson told him the construction schedule included enough flexibility that the NRC’s delay would not throw off the overall construction timetable.

To try to keep a lid on costs, the commission required the company to issue semi-annual status reports and to pay for the commission to hire an independent firm to monitor construction. However, Georgia Power won’t allow the monitor’s employees attend meetings where construction decisions are made.

“If there is a regulator’s representative sitting in, wouldn’t that chill the free flow of discussion,” asked Georgia Power attorney Kevin Greene.

Yes, Burleson said, adding that candor is important to critical decisions. Plus, the company does give minutes of the meeting to the monitor’s staff.

The commissioners took no action during the hearing. Afterward, Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald expressed his satisfaction.

“We are pleased with the progress at this time,” he told reporters.

Future hearings on costs are likely to be longer and more involved once construction progresses beyond moving dirt around for site preparation, according to Commissioner Stan Wise.

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Georgia Power estimates the average residential customer, who pays about $100 per month today, will pay an extra $1.30 each month. The charge will change, based on the pace of construction, financing rates charged to the company and the price of fuel used to generate power at existing plants. Based on the company's projected construction timeline, the monthly charge would rise by about $1.30 each of the six years the reactors are expected to be under construction, finally reaching $9 or so each month.

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FedupwithAUG
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FedupwithAUG 11/10/09 - 03:33 pm
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I bet they are not taking the

I bet they are not taking the cost of the spent nuclear waste that is generated for thousands of years. No fear SRS and the people of South Carolina will have to worry about that.

hmm
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hmm 11/10/09 - 05:21 pm
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but it is the cleanest and

but it is the cleanest and most efficient form of energy available. Better to have a small amount of spent fuel than the pollution caused by other forms of energy.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
7387
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 11/10/09 - 06:51 pm
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Fed up I guess you pedal a

Fed up I guess you pedal a bicycle to power your computer too!

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
7387
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 11/10/09 - 06:51 pm
0
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Fed up I guess you pedal a

Fed up I guess you pedal a bicycle to power your computer too!

icemanw83
37
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icemanw83 11/11/09 - 10:28 am
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Yuca mountain was supposed to

Yuca mountain was supposed to take care of that. Since the government backed out the Nuclear utilities have been suing them because they promised a place to put the nuclear waste, and they've been winning.
And I'm sure they factored in the cost of dry cask storage into the cost.

gaspringwater
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gaspringwater 11/11/09 - 05:35 pm
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I agree nuclear is better

I agree nuclear is better than burning fossil fuels but not a whole lot better. A nuclear generating plant has a front and a back. Out the front comes wonderful electricity and we need that. But out the back comes some of the worst waste known to mankind. Mother nature never created such crud. And the nuclear industry has no answer to making it safe. They just want to carry it somewhere out of sight and stash it for thousands or millions of years. Problem with that scheme is - most people don't their state to become a nuclear dump. The nuclear industry needs to spend a lot more money neutralizing the waste and making it harmless, if it's possible.

gaspringwater
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gaspringwater 11/11/09 - 05:53 pm
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Our industry friendly Public

Our industry friendly Public Service Commissioners ( PSC ) are a poor lot. Can't tell they're anything more than public employees drawing a salary. Georgia Power has the lobby muscle to push their interest through the state Legislature and there's no man of the people on the PSC. Shaking down consumers for up-front money is just legalized extortion. It's gone to court and hopefully the court will act in the consumer's interest.

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