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Utility Votes to Continue Costly Georgia Nuclear Project

AP Photo/John Bazemore, File

ATLANTA (AP) — The board of a Georgia utility has voted to continue the expansion of a nuclear power plant that’s years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. But another co-owner still needs to decide the plant’s ultimate fate.

The Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia’s board voted unanimously Monday to continue building two new reactors at the Vogtle nuclear power plant near Waynesboro.

That leaves one co-owner, Oglethorpe Power, left to decide whether to move forward or abandon the project.

A down vote by Oglethorpe Power could sink the project, which now has a total estimated cost of $27 billion. Oglethorpe Power’s board is expected to vote this week.

Southern Company, the parent company of the largest share owner, Georgia Power, already indicated it is ready to continue after learning that $2.3 billion in new cost overruns are expected.

That new overage triggered a clause in the ownership agreement where 90 percent of ownership — all three utilities — need to agree to move forward.

The critical vote came just days after the federal government warned the utilities that any move to cancel the planned expansion would lead to demands for quick repayment of nearly $6 billion in federal loans.

In a letter to the three owners, the Department of Energy said late Friday that if the construction project is canceled, the government is “prepared to move swiftly to fully enforce its rights under terms of the loan guarantee agreements, including the repayment provisions.”

The letter calls the project “a linchpin in the all-of-the-above energy strategy required to sustain our nation’s economic strength and energy independence.”

But several state lawmakers sounded the alarm last week about cost overruns at the site, saying they wanted a “cost cap” established to protect Georgians from getting gouged on their electricity bills.

The plug was pulled on a similar project in neighboring South Carolina in July 2017 when the V.C. Summer plant was abandoned after going billions of dollars over budget.

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