Local Groups Voice Vogtle Concerns to NRC Chair

Guest Blog | June 6, 2013 | Press Releases

Augusta, Ga. (June 6, 2013) – On June 7, residents living near Plant Vogtle along with local and regional organizations tracking the expansion of the Southern Company’s nuclear project near Waynesboro, Georgia will express their concerns to the Chair of the U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Allison Macfarlane, during a face-to-face meeting after she tours the Vogtle construction site. Public interest groups to meet with Commissioner Macfarlane include: Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions (Georgia WAND), Concerned Citizens of Shell Bluff, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, Center for Sustainable Coast and the Savannah Riverkeeper. The groups will express concerns about escalating costs, chronic schedule delays, human health and environmental impacts and problems with the NRC’s public outreach strategy and construction oversight by the NRC. The meeting comes as a local follow-up to an April meeting at NRC headquarters in Rockville, Maryland where the newly appointed Macfarlane met with public interest groups including Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Georgia WAND, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability and promised to visit Plant Vogtle and directly hear community concerns about the first nuclear reactors built in the U.S. in 30 years. “We appreciate that Chairwoman Macfarlane is taking time to meet not only with nuclear proponents but also with stakeholders who have been concerned about Plant Vogtle and the proposed expansion for many years,” Becky Rafter, Executive Director of Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions said. “There’s no other new commercial reactor site as close to another contaminated nuclear weapons complex as Vogtle is to Savannah River site. Doubling the size of Vogtle certainly does not help contamination issues.” The community also has concerns about the NRC’s public outreach. “My people perish from lack of knowledge,” local resident and Georgia WAND member, Annie Laura Stephens said, noting that NRC meetings often do not feel welcoming to the community. As the designated lead new reactor project in the country, Vogtle is facing many problems that have already resulted in increasing the costs to around $15 billion. The reactor project faces lengthy schedule delays and outstanding issues including unresolved regulatory changes stemming from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster over two years ago and looming questions about how to deal with long-lived, radioactive waste generated by nuclear reactors. A landmark court decision regarding unresolved nuclear waste issues caused the NRC to suspend all pending licensing decisions until the waste confidence ruling can be further reviewed by the agency. However, the NRC had already granted the combined operating license for Plant Vogtle and SCE&G’s V.C. Summer plant in neighboring South Carolina. “Georgia rate payers are on the hook for this project and U.S. taxpayers are also facing risks if the $8.3 billion taxpayer-financed loan guarantee is finalized,” Sara Barczak, High Risk Energy Choices program director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said. “It’s important for the NRC to address what’s really going on and what hurdles and challenges remain.” Two Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 reactors proposed for the Vogtle site were originally slated to be operational in April 2016 and 2017 at a cost of just over $14 billion. Georgia Power, a subsidiary of the Southern Company and majority owner of the existing and proposed reactors, intends to ask the Georgia Public Service Commission to increase their previously certified cost of just over $6.1 billion by $381 million. The Company has admitted to yet another delay, with estimates now of an 18-month delay, with reactor unit 3 now projected to come online at the end of 2018 and reactor unit 4 at the end of 2019. Oglethorpe Power, MEAG and Dalton Utilities are utility partners in the proposed expansion. Contact information for members of public interest groups who will be meeting with Commissioner Macfarlane: Courtney Hanson, Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions, cell 308-631-8543 Tom Clements, Friends of the Earth, cell 803-240-7268 Steve Willis, Sierra Club, cell 912-344-8505 # # # Georgia WAND is a women-led organization that seeks to direct women’s voices into a powerful movement for social change. We work to reduce militarism and violence and redirect excessive military spending toward unmet human and environmental needs. Founded in 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at www.cleanenergy.org