Friday, August 25, 2017

Nuclear:  Vogtle Owner Asks DOE for $1.6B More to Finish Project

Oglethorpe Power Corp., the second-largest partner in Georgia Power's nuclear expansion project, has asked the Department of Energy for as much as $1.6 billion in additional support to help finish the reactors, utility executives said yesterday.

The money will help cushion the blow of an increased budget used to pay for two reactors at Plant Vogtle, already years behind schedule and billions above their original forecast amount.  Oglethorpe, a 30 percent owner in the project, already has a $3 billion loan guarantee from the Energy Department.

It has drawn on $1.7 billion of that amount.

Oglethorpe, which serves 38 member cooperatives, is one of the public power companies involved in building the reactors at Vogtle in southeast Georgia.  Its request to the Energy Department is one of several last-minute moves the utility owners are making in efforts to lower the project's overall price tag, which could top $20 billion, based on estimates from two of the utility owners.

"The DOE has been extremely professional and supportive over the last several months and has worked tirelessly with us and the other owners that are also DOE borrowers," Betsy Higgins, Oglethorpe's chief financial officer, said during a quarterly investors presentation yesterday morning.

Vogtle's future has been in flux since its main contractor, Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March.  Westinghouse's bankruptcy stemmed from significant cost increases at Vogtle and a nuclear project in South Carolina.

The electric companies in Georgia and South Carolina analyzed how much it would cost to finish their reactors.  In South Carolina Scana Corp.'s South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. and state-owned Santee Cooper decided that the amount would be too much for their customers to bear and have abandoned their project.

South Carolina's governor, Legislature, and utility regulators have sharply criticized the utilities for their decision, accusing them of charging their customers billions for reactors that won't produce electricity.

The backlash has reached the point that the state House speaker has asked South Carolina's longtime utility consumer advocate to quit, and there is speculation that Santee Cooper's CEO will be forced to resign at a special board meeting today, according to multiple media reports.

Read more at Nuclear:  Vogtle Owner Asks DOE for $1.6b More to Finish Project

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