Nuclear Secrecy – Plant Vogtle Federal Loan Guarantee History

This blog was written by Sara Barczak, former Regional Advocacy Director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | October 13, 2011 | Energy Policy, Nuclear

After more than a year and a half of stonewalling by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) continues to press ahead with our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation so that U.S. taxpayers can learn the full extent of the risks to which they are exposed in the massive commitment of $8.33 billion in conditional federal loan guarantees to Southern Company and their utility partners for two proposed new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in Georgia. Of particular concern: the amount of taxpayer-backed obligations for the proposed Vogtle reactors is roughly 15 times greater than the failed Solyndra loan guarantee, which is receiving extensive Congressional scrutiny. Though the Vogtle project poses a much greater risk to taxpayers if default occurs, most in Congress have paid little attention. Read our press release here.

In the wake of DOE’s last production of heavily redacted documents, we will continue our suit in federal court in order to force the federal agency to release some of the improperly blacked-out and otherwise withheld information. Of particular interest to us is information revealing whether company officials played an inappropriate role in shaping the terms of the loan guarantee. Based on the limited information produced, it appears that the power companies had to put almost no “skin in the game,” promising to pay a credit subsidy fee of possibly as little as 0.5 or 1.5 percent of the total loan guarantee.

SACE has continuously voiced concerns about the controversial conditional nuclear loan guarantee awarded to the risky Vogtle project by President Obama back in February 2010. With legal representation from Emory University School of Law’s Turner Environmental Law Clinic, SACE filed a FOIA request to the DOE in March 2010 and a FOIA appeal in May 2010 in order to find out more about these risky loan guarantees and we failed to receive a satisfactory response. On August 9, 2010 we filed suit against the DOE. More than a year and a half later, our pursuit continues. Find a detailed timeline describing these activities here. Next steps in the process are outlined in this October 2011 court order.

In order to do our part to shed some light on the Vogtle loan guarantee, please see below for summaries of the thousands of pages of documents we have received and the documents themselves, many of which are so heavily redacted as to be considered useless in determining the risks that taxpayers may bear if default occurs. In order to protect taxpayers, the continuous shroud of secrecy around the loan guarantee program must end. Do your part by letting the White House hear your concerns.

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