Deal, a Republican, told WSAV-TV that the state’s Public Service Commission must ultimately decide whether Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power can increase its construction budget by $737 million. The utility has announced it cannot meet its original $6.1 billion budget to build two more nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, southeast of Augusta.
The elected members of Georgia’s Public Service Commission are considering the company’s request. Ultimately customers will pay the cost of building the new plant, unless utility regulators block the company from passing along construction costs they find objectionable.
“There are certainly points to be made on the side of those who say the company should absorb more of the cost and not pass it on to ratepayers. Certainly if that could be done that would be a good solution,” Deal told the TV station. “But I think we can’t lose sight of the fact that those two nuclear reactors will be the first new nuclear reactors in the United States in several decades, and it’s in my opinion a necessary impact of keeping the state of Georgia with adequate power resources.”
Georgia Power officials would not directly comment on Deal’s remark. The utility said in a statement that building the reactors is the best economic choice for customers. It also said state regulators have oversight authority over the construction project, including hiring their own nuclear engineer to monitor utility spending and project costs. The company said it’s using state-of-the-art technology and has an agreement with contractors meant to minimize financial risk to the utility and customers.
Earlier this month, Deal blamed rising construction costs on litigation filed by environmental groups, despite evidence to the contrary from Southern Co. and the independent monitor working for the state. Southern Co. has attributed most of the cost increases to licensing, production and construction problems, not legal challenges.