Turner Environmental Law Clinic Questions Financing of New Reactors at Vogtle Nuclear Site
On Thursday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will consider final permits that would clear the way for the first new construction at a nuclear power site in nearly 30 years, at The Southern Company’s Vogtle Electric Generating Plant near Waynesboro, Ga.
Emory Law’s Turner Environmental Law Clinic and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy say the Department of Energy should first answer questions concerning the finances and taxpayer underwriting of the $14 billion project that would add two new reactors to the plant’s two existing ones.
The Clinic filed Freedom of Information Act requests on SACE’s behalf in March 2010. After receiving no information beyond preliminary notices of receipt, SACE filed suit against the DOE in August 2011.
On Dec. 8, DOE filed a response, which Mindy Goldstein, the clinic’s acting director, characterized as a “heavily redacted.” The information released did not disclose the loan guarantee terms and credit subsidies. SACE suggests Southern Co. has an unacceptably slight investment in the project, perhaps as low as .05 to 1 percent.
Alliance Executive Director Stephen Smith drew a cautionary parallel to the government’s $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra Inc., the solar panel manufacturer that filed for bankruptcy in August. The $8.3 billion federal loan guarantee for the Vogtle Plant is more than a dozen times more than the taxpayer-backed obligation for Solyndra, Smith says.
“It's unacceptable and inconsistent that the much larger Vogtle loan isn't getting more intense scrutiny when the potential risk to taxpayers is much greater,” Smith said. “The DOE needs to operate with more transparency now, not less.”
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