March 20, 2012 14:44 Age: 2 yrs

Nuclear Projects Carry Untoward Risk for Taxpayers, Goldstein Says

For the first time since the late ’70s, nuclear energy is gaining momentum in the United States, following recent Nuclear Regulatory Commission approvals for new projects in the South. That includes a go-ahead received by Southern Co. in February to begin construction of two more reactors at its Plant Vogtle site near Waynesboro, Ga.

Mindy Goldstein, acting director of the Turner Environmental Law Clinic, was quoted Monday in the first of a three-part series on the issue by Hannah Northey, published by Greenwire.

In addition to environmental concerns, industry observers say nuclear power faces battles on two other fronts: cheap natural gas prices and high construction costs underwritten with taxpayer dollars.

If there are cost overruns, Southern Co. ratepayers and U.S. taxpayers must pay the cost, Goldstein said. And if the project is abandoned, they won’t get a refund on their involuntary investment, she added.

The Turner Environmental Law Clinic represents nine groups, including the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which have filed appeals challenging the construction at Plant Vogtle. The groups believe the NRC should have answered certain environmental and financial questions about the project before it issued the construction and operation licenses. Instead, the NRC has approved construction of the reactors, relying on the option to require changes in the reactor design at a later date, Goldstein said.

"The act-first-consider-what-we-need-to-change-later approach is what brought down the nuclear industry 20 to 30 years ago," Goldstein said. "I don't understand why we're going down this path again."

Related links:

Read the Greenwire story (requires registration)

Turner Environmental Law Clinic’s work involving Plant Vogtle

The Southern Co.’s Plant Vogtle site

Mindy Goldstein’s profile


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