Georgia go-ahead for early site work

29 July 2016

State regulators have approved a proposal by Georgia Power to spend up to $99 million on site investigation and licensing costs for a nuclear power plant at a new site at Stewart County in the south-west of the state.

This approval from the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) will enable the company to recover up to $99 million in costs for early-stage work completed by the middle of 2019 to its ratepayers. The work will include site suitability studies and developing a combined operating licence (COL) application for the plant. Georgia Power will be required to file a status report on the project in its 2019 integrated resources plan (IRP).

Earlier this year, Georgia Power announced that preliminary work including geological and water studies had begun on a 7000 acre (2800 hectare) site next to the Chattahoochee River, south of Columbus, Georgia. The company said it had begun evaluating the Stewart County site to help to keep its future options open, having learned from experience with its Vogtle construction project that the process to obtain a COL alone can take up to seven years. CEO Paul Bowers said at the time a new plant would not be built until "sometime after 2030" at the earliest.

Commissioner Stan Wise, who proposed the motion to approve Georgia Power's request, said: "We've seen what happens when regulators do not make the tough decisions [...] We see what happens when decisions are deferred, infrastructure crumbles and power is curtailed. We can debate the wisdom of the coal exodus but it must be replaced with something that is cost effective," he said. "Nuclear power remains among the lowest cost energy source, with a 92% reliability rating and it is carbon free."

The PSC also approved a revision to Georgia Power's IRP to include an additional 1600 MWe of renewable energy by 2021. PSC chair Chuck Eaton said the revised IRP "strikes the right balance between ensuring Georgia Power customers have reliable service and the right mix of resources".

Another member of the five-man PSC, Tim Echols, emphasized his commitment to ensure a diverse, secure and clean energy supply while keeping rates low. "Adding renewables and nuclear together makes sense," he said.

Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power operates two nuclear units at Vogtle in eastern Georgia and two at Hatch in the south-east of the state. Two new AP1000 reactors under construction at Vogtle, units 3 and 4, are expected to begin operations in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News