Where has all the public’s money gone?

by Glenn Carroll, illustrated by Tom Ferguson

ATLANTA 5/17/17: IT MAY BE EASIER TO UNDERSTAND the fast-moving drama of the slow-moving construction of Vogtle 3 & 4 if you look at the whole affair as a high-stakes betting game rather than the high-risk nuclear power project it appears to be.

If you haven’t already, tune into the frequent financial headlines about the $10 billion debt ruining Georgia Power’s multi-national corporate partners building AP1000 reactors in Burke County, Georgia. Tom Ferguson, famous artist and Nuclear Watch South board president, has created the above infographic to help you understand the action-packed poker game: VOGTLE BIG BET$ LOTTO!

(We join the game already in progress)

In December, Georgia Power secured a commitment from the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) to be reimbursed for its portion of billions of dollars in cost overruns that had been tied up in litigation with reactor designer Westinghouse for two years.

Four days later, the Japanese firm Toshiba, parent company of U.S.-based Westinghouse, announced substantial losses from its U.S. nuclear reactor projects. Toshiba had taken on all future cost overruns at Vogtle as part of its settlement with Georgia Power, and Toshiba’s stock went into freefall as it was revealed that the nuclear losses amounted to $10 billion.

Westinghouse declared bankruptcy in March while suing the construction company it had acquired as part of the settlement, Stone & Webster/Shaw/CB&I, for concealing several billion in debt which CB&I was carrying from Vogtle 3 & 4 (and Summer 2 & 3 in SC) in the deal.

All the companies involved have been honing their profit-making skills for a century and have rich, litigious histories. In the case of Westinghouse, bankruptcy appears to be a business strategy — it was bailed out by Toshiba after bankrupting British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. in a Japanese MOX fuel scandal. Toshiba made a risky bet on Westinghouse, paying three times the asking price because of giddy expectations of a “Nuclear Renaissance” back in 2006.

A most important detail of the game is that Georgia Power’s bets have been placed with public money: $2 billion collected from Georgia customers in an up-front nuclear construction tax on electricity bills (CWIP) PLUS $8 billion in taxpayer dollars loaned by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Georgia Power emerges as the Big Winner posting startling annual profits more than 20% higher than before Vogtle construction! In light of the bankruptcies, Georgia Power says it is reviewing its options, including to stop construction of Vogtle.

Nuclear Watch South has filed a formal request for an emergency public hearing with the PSC and for a deadline to be set for Georgia Power to submit its plan forward. Georgia Power customers continue to pay $23 million per month to keep building an unneeded power project with an uncertain future. Today, we are still waiting for the PSC to exercise its authority and take hold of the situation.

Last week, the public came out strong to say “NOT ONE MORE CENT FOR VOGTLE” at the PSC’s 16th Semi-Annual Vogtle Construction Monitoring Review public hearing. Media coverage was strong and our message is beginning to show up in the narrative. The next public hearing will be on June 29 at 10AM at the PSC.

Follow the action at nonukesyall.org.