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Monday, March 4, 2013 - 12:28pm

Nuclear Costs Fuel Bill

An energy subcommittee in the state House is scheduled to hear testimony today about a bill that would penalize Southern Company for going over budget at nuclear Plant Vogtle.

As the cost of the new nuclear reactors soars, the legislative second-guessing could be a sign of buyer's remorse.

Last week, Southern Company announced cost overruns at two new nuclear reactors being built at Vogtle near Augusta.

"When this so called nuclear renaissance started there was a lot of talk about cheaper reactors. But it was all come-on prices," says Arjun Makhijani of the antinuclear Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. "And then once construction started and they had licenses, problems with the quality of construction, delays. And of course, once you have delays and problems with construction then you're going to have cost overruns."

On top of higher construction costs, the price of natural gas has plummeted, making nuclear less competitive.

The bill would trim the company's profits to punish Southern for higher costs.

"The thing I thought very encouraging actually about the Vogtle situation is that even though construction costs look like they will increase financing costs are almost correspondingly reduced." says Clint Wolfe of the pro-industry Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness.

A Southern Company spokesman says lower financing costs mean ratepayers will not be affected by the larger budget numbers.

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