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Wednesday, July 6, 2011 - 5:46pm

Regulators Mull Checks On Vogtle Costs

State utility regulators heard arguments Wednesday over a plan intended to protect consumers from potential cost over-runs of the nuclear expansion of Plant Vogtle.

More than a dozen people went before the Public Service Commission to voice their concerns over the project itself.

Opponents of nuclear expansion say its potential harm to people and the environment overshadows the financial risk.

Bobbie Paul is with Georgia WAND.

"It’s the ratepayer who is paying the price for ever increasing costs of high risk nuclear energy reactors. We saw it in Fukushima. We have parents in Japan right now paying scientists to figure out if it’s safe for children to go outside and breathe the air, drink the water,” says Paul.

She voiced her concerns to the PSC as it considers changes to a plan which would tie Georgia Power’s profits to its ability to come in at the state-approved budget of 6.1 billion dollars.

If the project exceeds the budget by 300 million dollars, the company’s ability to profit will be reduced.

Tom Newsome on the PSC's public advocacy staff says the plan is necessary to protect ratepayers.

“If you’re going to target their profits, you’re going to sharpen the focus of management a little bit,” says Newsome. “If there is a cost over-run the benefit to the ratepayer is going down. We’re trying to mitigate that.”

Newsome says even with the penalties, the company could substantially profit.

Georgia Power says the plan could drive up financing costs by harming investment.

Brian Ivey with Southern Company, of which Georgia Power is a subsidiary, says having the flexibility of spending more upfront could ultimately benefit ratepayers.

"If we determine an engineering change should be made that results in lower long-term maintenance costs for the project and it’s a good decision to spend those dollars today ... unless that decision is made after the engineering is completed, it would still count towards an increase in cost."

The five elected members of the PSC will vote on the plan August 2nd.


Tom Newsome was mis-identified as "Paul Newsome"-- corrected 11:11 AM 07/14/11