Instead of cheap solar, Georgia ratepayers will be saddled with $28 billion cost of Vogtle nuclear power plant

  • Published on October 3rd, 2018

Last week, the LA Times ran an op-ed arguing that if California is serious about meeting its new carbon-free goals, it must end its moratorium on the construction of nuclear power plants so that new ones can be built. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Georgia is proving that argument wrong. For nearly ten years, the state has been building the Vogtle nuclear power plant. After years of delays, the price tag has doubled to $28 billion, and it’s still unclear if it will ever actually provide electricity to the ratepayers picking up the tab.

nuclear power, simpsons style

By Climate Denier Roundup

As Liam Denning at Bloomberg points out, assuming it does eventually get built, the current price tag (assuming it doesn’t grow further) would mean that the plant will produce power for $11,000 per kilowatt of capacity. Denning notes this is multiple times what gas or solar would cost. For comparison, utility-scale solar clocks in at $1,778 per kilowatt of capacity, based on 2018 capital expenditure rates.

Had Georgia decided to spend $28 billion for solar panels instead of two reactors with a combined 2.2 gigawatts capacity, they could’ve gotten something like 15GW of utility scale solar energy, or roughly 20 coal plants.

Even taking into account the different generation profiles of nuclear plants (which run about 90% of the time) and solar panels (which only have a roughly 25% capacity factor), for that same $28 billion in spending, Georgia could have had twice as much power from solar panels as it’s going to get from Vogtle.

Those who decry green group campaigns or moratoriums as the reason why there aren’t more nuclear plants seem unaware of the massive cost of generating electricity from nuclear plants–if they can even be built.

For example, Georgia’s northern neighbor South Carolina is having a nuclear plant construction meltdown of its own. No, not a meltdown as in the nuclear material got too hot and threatened to kill everyone nearby and send a plume of radiation into the atmosphere that would cause cancer around the world.

It had a metaphorical meltdown–as in, the process of constructing the plant melted down and now customers are paying for reactors that look like they will never be completed. At $11 billion, the failed project is not quite as over budget as Vogtle, but customers are already beginning to pay for the plant. They’ve been billed $2 billion for it so far, and will continue paying $37 million per month to the utilities that are failing to construct the nuclear plants. This works out to the average ratepayer putting up about 20 percent of their monthly bill, or $250 a year, to the project.

South Carolinians could be paying off this bad bet on nuclear for 60 years. As Brett Bursey of the SC Progressive network told, “You will literally have your children and grandchildren pay for this mistake.”

Generations of SC ratepayers and their utilities will pay $11 billion in exchange for exactly zero electricity. In Georgia, they’re going to pay nearly three times that, and it’s still uncertain whether or not the plants will come online.

At what point does it make more sense to just shovel ratepayers’ money directly into a furnace?

Nuclear was once expected to be too cheap to meter. Turns out it’s the opposite: too expensive to produce anything for the meter to measure.

(Cross-posted from DailyKos.)


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