Georgia Power gets green light on new nuclear plant
State energy regulators gave Georgia Power Co. the go-ahead Thursday to start laying the groundwork for a new nuclear power plant south of Columbus, Ga.
But the Atlanta-based utility won’t be able to charge customers as much as it wanted to conduct preliminary site work and seek an operating license for a proposed nuclear facility at a 7,000-acre site in rural Stewart County.
The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) voted 4-1 to authorize Georgia Power to spend up to $99 million on the early stages of the project through the second quarter of 2019. The utility was asking the commission for authority to recover from customers up to $175 million in costs associated with the work.
The PSC’s staff had recommended that the commission put off a decision on the new nuclear plant until 2019.
But Commissioner Stan Wise, who made the motion, said growing pressure from the federal government on states to reduce carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants coupled with the volatility of natural gas prices make additional nuclear power an option that can’t wait.
“The void has to be replicated with something that is cost effective and maintains our diverse portfolio [of energy sources],” he said. “I refuse to sit on my hands and defer a decision to a future commission.”
But Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, who voted against Wise’s motion, said Georgia Power should be willing to invest its own money in the Stewart County project rather than charge customers.
“If they’re as sure about another nuclear program in 2025 and beyond … let their investors make the first investment,” he said.