“Theater of the Absurd” underway with Georgia’s nuclear power expansion

Guest Blog | July 17, 2017 | Energy Policy, Nuclear

At the end of June the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) held a hearing on the 16th semi-annual Vogtle Construction Monitoring (VCM) review docket. Numerous public witnesses from around Georgia came to express their ongoing, serious concerns with the water-intensive, years delayed and many billions of dollars over budget new nuclear power expansion project at Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle, along the Savannah River near Waynesboro. The testimony from the PSC staff and consultants was compelling, showing instances in which the project is no longer economic to pursue and highlighting missed deadlines, productivity problems and more.

The bankruptcy of reactor designer and builder Westinghouse back in March has caused even more problems and Southern Company, on behalf of its subsidiary, Georgia Power, and project partners Oglethorpe Power, MEAG and Dalton Utilities, is working to develop a schedule and cost estimate to complete. It’s shocking that 8 years into the project construction is only 32% complete, productivity is still a problem, workers are spending more time on “non-work activities” than actual “work-related activities” and there is neither a reliable cost estimate nor schedule for completion. Southern Company is in the process of taking over the project from Westinghouse, perhaps by the end of this month, and supposedly expects to have the cost and schedule information sometime in August. When this information is made public and ultimately what happens next is anyone’s guess. Will Southern Company and its partners move ahead with both reactors, pursue one and delay the other, abandon the whole project, propose other options?

But one thing is for certain, public commenter Barbara Antonoplos delivered entertaining testimony, accurately welcoming us all to “The Theater of the Absurd.” Read her full comments below or you can listen to her deliver them to the Commissioners by clicking here and listening at 35 minutes into the hearing (feel free to listen from the start to all the public commenters and the full recording of the entire hearing can be found here, in 3 parts). To get involved, please sign this petition demanding regulators protect consumers by holding utilities accountable and conducting a transparent, open and public review of this troubled project.  — Sara Barczak, SACE High Risk Energy Choices Program Director

Comments by Barbara Antonoplos, delivered at the Public Service Commission’s 16th VCM hearing, June 29, 2017

“I’ve read all these testimonies that were filed for today, and I thought I was reading reports, but they read more like a script for the Theater of the Absurd!

 …Where the more the laborers work, the more behind they get!

…Where, as more people are paid for idle time, more people are hired to manage them!

…Where the more of a failure the whole enterprise is, the more money “The Company” makes!

…Where the expenditure of more and more billions of dollars on a failing experiment is called a “deal” for consumers!

…Where, in the spending of those billions of dollars, no accurate and meaningful construction schedule has ever existed!

…Where, in the face of all this, “The Company” emphatically maintains that the project is well managed!

…And where—despite warning after warning after warning—you all say, “NOBODY could have seen this coming!”

–Where fiction is truth!  And the whole show is out of control!

Frankenstein has escaped the lab!  Madness reigns!  And it can’t be fixed!

But that doesn’t keep you all from running around the country begging for more corporate welfare to keep this mad scheme afloat, because there is money to be made on this failing experiment as long as taxpayers and ratepayers can be forced to cough it up!

Even still using that mythical 60-year reactor life–and other faulty assumptions–most of the economic scenarios this time around finally show that the project is no longer economical to finish.

NEVERTHELESS, claiming that the only real purpose of these hearings is to verify that, indeed, another enormous pile of money has been squandered on this ongoing failure, you all will once again say, “Oh!  O.K.” –and that’s that until the next round.


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