Atlanta, Ga. – Today, the Southern Company announced their acceptance of a controversial taxpayer-financed $8.3 billion conditional nuclear loan guarantee from the Department of Energy for the two new reactors the utility and its partners want to build at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, Georgia. Southern Company’s decision comes four months after the Obama Administration announced the award, the first of its kind for the lead new nuclear reactor project in the U.S. that is not yet licensed and is of a design, the Westinghouse AP1000, that has yet to be certified by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission or operated anywhere in the world.
“Southern Company, through its subsidiary Georgia Power, managed last year to get customers in Georgia to carry the burden of this project through controversial legislation requiring pre-payment for the proposed new reactors,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Now Southern Company and its partners are turning to the trough that is the U.S. Treasury – at the expense of hardworking, taxpaying Americans. Let’s be clear – this is what it takes to build new nuclear reactors – lots of handouts and bailouts to big companies along with closed-door negotiations.”
Southern Company was originally given 90 days to accept the award but requested a 30-day extension. Its utility partners pursuing the proposed Vogtle reactors include Oglethorpe Power, MEAG, and the City of Dalton, Georgia. Key details of the loan guarantee arrangement have not been shared publicly, such as how much the utilities have to “put down” to secure the loan.
In an effort to unearth this important information given the potentially high rate of default on such capital-intensive projects, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Energy (DOE) in March, which would have required a response no later than April 22, and then an appeal in May. Thus far the DOE has failed to produce any records responsive to the FOIA request.
“Like the devastating oil disaster unfolding in the Gulf, questionable practices must be scrutinized in order for the public to be properly protected,” continued Smith. “But that didn’t happen today – another risky energy project is being pursued in spite of all the red flags. And the big corporations won’t pay if this project goes belly up – the U.S. taxpayer will.”