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Time For A Reality Check: More Delays Are Coming For Georgia Power's New Vogtle Reactors

Dennis Wamsted's picture
Freelance Journalist and Consultant WamstedOnEnergy.com

A long-time energy and environmental policy junkie, I earned my reporting stripes at The Energy Daily in Washington, D.C. I stepped down as the daily's executive editor in 1998 to spend time with...

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  • Jul 11, 2016
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Note: This article has been updated with additional information from Bill Edge, the Public Information Officer of the Georgia Public Service Commission, and a follow-up comment from author Dennis Wamsted. -Ed.

Georgia Power executives certainly won’t say it and Georgia’s utility regulators certainly won’t acknowledge it, but the reality is there are going to be additional delays at Vogtle 3&4—the already delayed and over budget new nuclear project being built by Westinghouse for the Southern Company subsidiary and a consortium of Georgia municipal utilities south of Augusta.

In a process that resembles a Kabuki dance, every six months Georgia Power is required to file a construction monitoring report with the Georgia Public Service Commission detailing its progress and justifying its expenditures in the last reporting period. (Georgia Power filed its 14th such report, covering the six months from June-December of 2015, in February 2016; it is now pending before the PSC.) Intervenors get to comment during this process, but once that is done, like clockwork, the commission signs off on the report, the utility gets to charge ratepayers for the approved expenses and the whole process starts anew. However, when you look closely it is clear that all is not well with the long-running Vogtle production.

[Bill Edge, the Public Information Officer of the Georgia Public Service Commission, responded with the following comment: “Verification and approval in the Vogtle Construction Monitoring process is not a finding of prudency and does not constitute approval to place the expense in rate base.  So, it does not constitute permission for the company to get a return of its investment and get recovery from ratepayers.”

Author’s note: While this is true, the company is being allowed to collect funds from its ratepayers through a term known as construction work in progress (CWIP), which as Georgia explains on its website, “allows [it] to collect from customers, prior to the completion of a project, to offset construction costs. The collected funds compensate for the cost of materials and labor accrued during a project.” Also, when the commission approved the reactors’ construction in 2009 they adopted a measure certifying Georgia Power’s portion of the units’ costs at $6.446 billion, meaning it is almost 100 percent certain that the utility will be allowed to put at least that amount in rate base when Vogtle 3&4 enter commercial operation.]

In particular, it is worth taking a long look at the testimony presented by Dr. William Jacobs and Steven Roetger, who represent the Georgia PSC’s public interest advocacy staff in overseeing construction activities at Vogtle. Jacobs is the project’s independent construction monitor and has raised questions about the plant’s construction schedule virtually since the first dirt was turned (see this story). Roetger is the leader of the staff’s oversight team and has been involved with the project since the beginning. We will get into the details of their testimony below, but their conclusion is striking:

“We conclude that the company has not demonstrated to staff that the current CODs [commercial operation dates] have a reasonable chance of being met. It is our opinion that there exists a strong likelihood of further delayed operation dates for both units.”

To ground their analysis, Jacobs and Roetger refer often in their testimony (which can be found here) to the integrated project schedule (IPS) issued in January, 2015, which set June 2019 (Unit 3) and June 2020 (Unit 4) as the commercial start-up dates for the two reactors. The problem, the two write, is that the contractor “has failed to achieve the critical project milestones” needed to meet those dates. For example, in just a year the schedule to complete one such milestone at Unit 3 (raising the concrete height on the east side of the shield building to 100 feet) had slipped by more than 300 days. Another delay, of 172 days, was recorded in installing shield building panels since January 2015.

VogtleUnit3June2016

Clearly Still Plenty To Do At Vogtle #3

Schedule problems are also evident on Unit 4, the two continued. In particular, installation of the CA20 module, which will be used for fuel handling and spent fuel storage, is now 228 days behind schedule compared to the January 2015 IPS. Similarly, installation of the CA01 module, which will contain the steam generators, is an estimated 152 days behind schedule while module CA03, part of the reactor’s safety system, is a whopping 337 days late.

“Furthermore,” the two wrote, “since January 2016, milestones have continued to slip.”

The Problem With “Pinning”

So with all the delays, it is a fair question to ask why Georgia Power and Westinghouse, the lead contractor, can still dance around the question of when the reactors actually will start producing power. To maintain the 2019/2020 dates, Jacobs and Roetger explain, the contractor has adopted a technique called “pinning” or “constraining” certain activities within the IPS, which then keeps downstream activities ‘on schedule’ as well. As an example, they cite the installation of course 7 on Unit 3’s shield building, which according to the May 2016 IPS has been pinned at its previous completion date “even though the required precedent activities have slipped over 100 days.”

Proof of the Kabuki nature of the commission’s oversight activity can be seen clearly in looking back at the 13th Vogtle Construction Monitoring (VCM) report, where Jacobs and Roetger raised almost exactly the same concerns about Westinghouse/Georgia Power’s use of “pinning” as a means of maintaining the schedule:

“Eight other Unit 3 critical path activities are pinned in the October 2015 IPS. Most of these show significant negative variance to the January 2015 IPS. The contractor justifies this approach by stating that they are developing mitigation strategies to prevent these delays from impacting the project completion dates. …the contractor has had limited, if any, success in mitigating schedule delays. While mitigation may be effective in maintaining the current delays or reducing them to some degree, based on past performance we believe that it is unlikely that the contractor will be able to develop and implement mitigation strategies that will prevent the current existing delays from impacting the current completion dates for Units 3 and 4 of June 2019 and 2020, respectively.”

In addition to pinning activities, the project schedule put forward by Westinghouse (and, by extension, Georgia Power) simply assumes that the amount of time required to complete future activities can be compressed. To this end, the utility’s 14th VCM report to the Georgia commission (which can be found here) outlines a number of these time-saving techniques, including two that need mentioning:

  • First, the company says it will install “structures over construction areas, including areas of the nuclear island, to protect work activities from inclement weather.” The utility has operated reactors at the site for almost 30 years; did it really take managers there that long to realize it rains on occasion in southeastern Georgia?
  • Second, the company says it will standardize “construction sequence above elevation 100 feet to synergize planning.” Can anyone really tell me what that means or, more importantly, how it is going to save any time?

Jacobs and Roetger are more polite, but their criticism is telling, nonetheless: “Since the beginning of construction on the project to the present, mitigation has been ineffective in eliminating delays and only recently slightly effective in reducing existing delays. The contractor’s assumption that future mitigation will have a positive impact on the IPS is not supported by its performance to date.” At a different point in their testimony, the two pile on, noting that to keep to the current schedule “the contractor must successfully implement as yet unproven mitigation strategies to recover current delays and also complete critical construction sequences in significantly less time than originally planned due to compression of the project schedule.” Possible? Yes, but as Jacobs and Roetger point out: “Until now the contractor has taken significantly longer than planned to complete scheduled activities.”

In short, everyone can pretend that everything will be completed on time—even if everyone knows that it is not going to happen.

New Scope To Construction Work

Beyond this, there is the looming transition at the reactor construction site from one mainly of outside rebar setting and concrete pours to inside containment installation work involving the nuclear steam supply system equipment, electrical, HVAC and other piping. There have been no delays in this work only because it has not begun, or as Jacobs and Roetger said: “This means that the contractor has yet to be challenged by that work. It is highly unlikely that this work will proceed exactly as forecast for the reasons articulated below.”

Among their concerns:

  • The aggressive time frame of overall completion;
  • The congested nature of the inside containment area, which will only increase as components are installed;
  • The first-of-its-kind nature of this work for Westinghouse’s AP1000 design;
  • The vertical nature of the work, which will require careful staging to ensure one set of workers is not impinging on the access needed by another set; and
  • The need to get numerous craft workers (electricians, welders, HVAC, and pipe fitters, to name just a few), quality assurance, field engineering, and other oversight workers in and out under tight individual schedules without compromising their work or the work of others.

On a more general critique, and while acknowledging that Westinghouse’s “schedule adherence” has been better in the past several months, Jacobs and Roetger note that construction activities must speed up across the board for the project to have any chance of being completed by 2019/2020 as currently scheduled. As of the end of 2015, construction was 28.4 percent complete, but a more worrisome figure is that of the containment buildings; as of May 31, 2016, Unit 3 was just 15.3 percent complete, while Unit 4 was only 7.1 percent finished. To meet the current schedules, Jacobs and Roetger wrote that the amount of work completed each month through September 2017 must increase “to a rate three times the amount that has ever been achieved to date on this project.” Again, it’s possible, but likely? I certainly wouldn’t bet on it, especially given that the average monthly construction completion rate did not even come close to the necessary level during the first five months of 2016, the first period of the newly consolidated contracting team with Westinghouse at the helm and Fluor as the principal construction subcontractor.

And the real kicker is that all of the above has to happen just as predicted by Westinghouse and Georgia Power for the reactors to have a chance of entering commercial service as currently scheduled. As Jacobs and Roetger conclude: “If the contractor is not able to successfully meet all of the above challenges, the schedule will not be achieved.”

If you believe this is all going to happen, you should go buy a lottery ticket, your odds of winning are probably about the same.

Original Post

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 11, 2016

Dennis, this is typical antinuke nonsense.

Cape Wind has been in development for 15 years and has yet to generate one kWh of electricity. If it’s ever finished, it can be counted on to generate at least one 1 kWh exactly – never. On average, it will deliver 140 MW when the wind is blowing, not when customers need it.

Vogtle will deliver 2,100 MW of reliable baseload power – there’s a reality check.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Jul 12, 2016

Thanks for the analysis – but those who dream their nuclear pipe dreams this does not matter as it seems.

Josh Nilsen's picture
Josh Nilsen on Jul 12, 2016

Another completely unfair comparison courtesy of BobMeinetz.

ANY EVIDENCE THAT SAYS NUKES ARE BAD I CANNOT DISCUSS, I HAVE TO BRING UP APPLES TO ORANGES COMPARISONS.

There is a difference between breaking ground then getting delays and not breaking ground and delaying.

You’re 100% wrong and every second you say nukes are good, you’re making fellow Americans POORER.

But I’m sure you’re paid by the nuke lobby to just spam rhetoric. Your arguments have absolutely no basis in logic.

The Vogtle Nuclear power plants will go down as one of the biggest boondoggles in United States history.

You’ve become someone who denies reality. You should join Fox News Bob and pretend the sky is orange and the sun revolves around the Earth.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Jul 12, 2016

But I’m sure you’re paid by the nuke lobby to just spam rhetoric. Your arguments have absolutely no basis in logic.

I sure would love to get a paycheck for doing this.  So far it’s been completely a labor of love.

The Vogtle Nuclear power plants will go down as one of the biggest boondoggles in United States history.

Meanwhile, Haiyang 1 joins Sanmen 1 as the second AP1000 to complete cold hydrostatic testing.  Both units will be on-line by the end of this year.

You’ve become someone who denies reality.

How much are you willing to bet on that Vogtle claim?  How about a nice, round number like $10,000?  I can use the money and it would be sweet if I got it from a raving fanatic like you.

For “boondoggle” we can say something like “Vogtle Unit 3 does not go into operation by 12/31/2020”.  Fair?

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Jul 12, 2016

“There is a difference between breaking ground then getting delays and not breaking ground and delaying.”

What is the significance of that difference? If the salient point is cost overruns, then yes delays after breaking ground cost money. If the salient point is to get new zero emissions capacity out to the grid, a delay is a delay.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jul 13, 2016

With all of the whining about schedule slips, it’s important to remember why nuclear plants are valuable: no nation has ever made deep reductions in grid fossil fuel dependence without nuclear!

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jul 13, 2016

But I’m sure you’re paid by the nuke lobby to just spam rhetoric

Ah, the answer to the problem that confounds every anti-nuclear activists: “why are so many scientists and engineers in favor of nuclear power?” (Obviously most everyone working in the nuclear industry, but also health physicists like Bernard Cohen, climate scientists like James Hansen, and environmental scientists like Barry Brooke.)

I’ve got bad new for you though, there is no nuke lobby to speak of. Most of the major players also build the steam turbines and boilers that are used in fossil fuel plants, so they don’t care what we choose.

The fossil fuel and renewable companies however, do have a very strong incentive to tell lies about nuclear! Without the core lie (that “nuclear is more dangerous than fossil fuel”), neither fossil fuel nor the variable renewables which depend on fossil fuels would be accepted by environmental groups.

greggerritt greggerritt's picture
greggerritt greggerritt on Jul 15, 2016

The Energy Collective regularly runs articles touting Nuclear Power and complaining about the Greens who write and say such horrible things about it. The real problem is that none of the construction projections ever tend to be real. When i was younger I ran a carpentry business. I brought in all my jobs on time and under budget. My clientele did not have money to waste. The nuclear industry never comes in on time or under budget. And when a construction project runs like that, you wonder about the workmanship. And therefore the safety of communities.

A very large segment of the American population has seen the lies, deceits, and cost over runs for 40 years. You have some very serious explaining to do if you think that the people who remember the bad old days are not just seeing this as the same old business as usual. Do not try to brow beat us into accepting the same old stories. Demonstrate your integrity and concern for our communities, not just your bottom line, which gets taken out of our pockets, even when you build the wrong thing.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 16, 2016

Greg, that entrepreneurs who develop solar or wind farms are somehow inherently more honest is nonsense. You are projecting your apprehension of nuclear power on a group of people, most of whom are hard-working, honest business people, turning them into boogeymen so that your irrational fear might have a convenient target.

The true evil lies in the arrogant segment of our society which harbors the belief its own childish safety blanket takes precedence over the public good; people who are willing to spend tens of $billions of others’ money on toys like “wind turbines” and “solar panels” for generating electricity because they’re incapable of understanding a truly abundant source of energy – and are afraid of what they don’t understand.

No – you demonstrate your concern for our communities, you stop your self-absorbed rant long enough to listen to the best engineers, the best physicists, the best climatologists, the people who overwhelmingly agree nuclear will play a critical role in addressing climate change. Then have the courage to admit you’re not as smart as you thought you were, and get out of the way. Thank you.

greggerritt greggerritt's picture
greggerritt greggerritt on Jul 16, 2016

When wind farms fail, no one dies. No areas are left uninhabitable.

i know wind developers are as unscrupulious as nuke developers, but they just do not have a legacy of “too cheap to meter” or catastrophic failures. Own it. Plus you are uninsurable. And then wonder why with all the PR mioney in the world you still can not win the PR game. We get out spent 1000 to 1 and you are still failing.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jul 16, 2016

When wind farms fail, no one dies.

Ah, but wind farms alone don’t make electricity in a form that anyone wants (even when aggregated on continent scale and combined with solar); they simply must be blended into a grid mix rich in fossil fuel. So yes, a wind-rich electricity portfolio will always be dirty and dangerous.

Anti-nuclearism is not a valid form of environmentalism. This anti-science and deeply misguided ideology always results in more fossil fuel use, more air pollution, more harm to human health, and more destruction of the environment.

Image from the 2010 fossil gas leak and explosion in San Bruno California.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Jul 16, 2016

When wind farms fail, no one dies. No areas are left uninhabitable.

No one died at TMI; there weren’t even any injuries.  Nothing was rendered any less habitable.

No one died from radiation at Fukushima; there weren’t even any major injuries.  The so-called “uninhabitable” area is less radioactive than many areas of naturally high radiation where people have been living for thousands of years.  People have been living and working in the “uninhabitable” area with no ill effects.

Fewer died at Chernobyl than the annual death toll at chemical plants, and that was more than 30 years ago now.  Nobody’s ever going to build another RMBK.  People have also been living in Chernobyl’s exclusion zone with no issues.

i know wind developers are as unscrupulious as nuke developers, but they just do not have a legacy of “too cheap to meter” or catastrophic failures.

The Green claim that anyone promised “too cheap to meter” is a lie.

Own it.

Own up to being a tool.

wonder why with all the PR mioney in the world you still can not win the PR game. We get out spent 1000 to 1 and you are still failing.

The major environmental organizations have massive budgets, most of them spent on PR.  They are almost all rabidly anti-nuclear.  They get their money largely from foundations which launder money from oil and gas interests, though when oilman Jay Precourt went in with Stanford he put his name on it.

you are uninsurable.

If nuclear plants are uninsurable, neither the chemical industry nor hydro dams would have any hope of insurability either.  Frankly, if you believe this you’re a dupe.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Jul 17, 2016

“neither the chemical industry nor hydro dams would have any hope of insurability either..”

Also recall aviation; the model for government sanctioned limited liability was created by the aviation industry in the 1930‘s, as there was no other sure way to cap what wild liability claims might be made against man-made things falling from the sky.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_Convention

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Jul 17, 2016

“The nuclear industry never comes in on time or under budget.”

Some late and over, sometimes on time and on budget. Commercial nuclear power goes back to the 1950s, and the world is a big place, with dozens of countries with nuclear power plants, beyond the repetitive mantras of anti-nuclear publications.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Jul 18, 2016

Please proof this wild assumption, or better real the huge amout of calculation data online wich proof that on continental scale the variability is so small that it can be compensated by existing hydropower storages and biomass (waste).

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Jul 18, 2016

BM – You do your cause no favors by your ongoing misinformation campaign. Cape Wind is an outlier and completely non-representative of the time require to install wind projects. In the time since it was first proposed, the total installed wind generating capacity in the US has climbed from a little over 4 GW to nearly 70 GW. In the time since Vogtle applied for approvals of units 3 and 4 over 50 GW of wind has been brought online. And since being proposed a little over 8 years ago construction of the first US off shore wind farm is well under way with generation anticipated before year end.

http://c1cleantechnicacom.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/files/2015/08/AWEA-14.jpg

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Jul 18, 2016

Well this is an interesting exchange:

“But I’m sure you’re paid by the nuke lobby to just spam rhetoric. Your arguments have absolutely no basis in logic.”

I sure would love to get a paycheck for doing this. So far it’s been completely a labor of love.

The comment was addressed to Bob M not you. I wonder . . .

Ben Franklin used to push his positions by using multiple aliases. Very interesting. Wonder if a guy who has a web design company could engineer posts from two different aliases to come from different IP addresses. Doesn’t sound too hard. . .

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Jul 18, 2016

“renewable companies however, do have a very strong incentive to tell lies about nuclear! ”

Perhaps but I have not seen them doing it. You are clever Nathan, you don’t come out and say they are doing it you simply point to an incentive and leave it to the reader to connect the dots in the way you hope they will. Can you show any significant evidence to support your suggestion that renewables companies are spreading “the core lie”. If not I encourage you to try to salvage some of your fading credibility and retract your statement.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 18, 2016

Clayton, Engineer – Poet and I have a lot in common on energy. On politics we have significant differences. But to write off intelligent and substantive criticism of your faith-based energy perspective by assigning it all to one Nefarious Boogeyman is hilarious in its simple-mindedness.

Maybe you’re just wrong. Mull that over for a while, then seek professional help.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 18, 2016

Clayton, wind is inconsequential. Cape Wind will generate one-eighth as much energy as Watts Bar 2, which went online this spring, at a per-megawatt capex four times higher. But I suspect service interruptions will be required to convince New Englanders of their folly.

Time to put away your expensive and wasteful toys.

Signed,
The Nuclear Boogeyman, Alias #1103

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 18, 2016

Welcome to the fray, Nathan. Truth will prevail.

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Jul 18, 2016

Not sure what your point is. 2 1/2 times more wind energy generation came online in 2015 than the capacity, on an energy basis, of Watts Bar 2 (WB2) and that is generously giving WB2 a 100% CF. Since WB2 was started, in 1973, the wind industry went from non-existent to over 21 times the Watts Bar 2 capacity (on an energy basis) – 73 GW wind by the end of 2015.

WB2 started 1973, completed 2015

Unit 2 Produced Power for the First Time June 3 this year.

Watts Bar nuclear Unit 2 generated electricity onto its power grid for the first time on Friday, June 3 2016.

Your fixation on Cape Wind is weird at best. Cape Wind is unique in that they had to overcome federal, state and local hurdles. The feds didn’t want to see anything like that happen in the future so they are prevetting large swaths of ocean to accelerate the permitting. The Block Island wind farm is the first to show the benefit of that program. It was started long after Cape Wind and now is nearing completion. Scheduled to be generating by year end.

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Jul 18, 2016

Wait . . . Now you are answering for him.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Jul 18, 2016

I have a 12-year history of work under this name at The Ergosphere, and comments on Slashdot and elsewhere further back than that.  You can be assured that nobody could be so schizophrenic as to write for both Bob Meinetz (whose name I didn’t know until just weeks ago) and me.

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Jul 18, 2016

gregg,

There are a lot of assumed “facts” that are actually false. Use this chance to revisit and revise the lies frequently spoken about nuclear power.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 19, 2016

Helmut, this has been out for over a week now, but maybe you hadn’t heard. Shouldn’t California learn from Germany’s großer Fehler?

“Germany’s legislature voted Friday to sharply cut back on subsidies and other financial incentives supporting green energy due to the strain wind and solar power placed on the country’s electricity grid.

Germany’s government plans to replace most of the subsidies for local green energy with a system of competitive auctions where the cheapest electricity wins. The average German pays 39 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity due to intense fiscal support for green energy. The average American only spends 10.4 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Germany’s wind and solar power systems have provided too much power at unpredictable times, which damaged the power grid and made the system vulnerable to blackouts. Grid operators paid companies $548 million to shutter turbines to fix the problem, according to a survey by Wirtschaftswoche of Germany’s largest power companies.”

http://dailycaller.com/2016/07/10/germany-votes-to-abandon-most-green-en...

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 19, 2016

Clayton, if you keep at it you’ll be alone:

Without nuke power, climate change threat grows

The announcement last month that California’s largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric company, plans to close the state’s last nuclear power station sent shock waves through America’s electric utility industry and should send a chilling message to anyone worried about the warming of the planet due to greenhouse gas emissions…

If there is a silver lining, it is that the Diablo closure has finally made obvious how critical nuclear energy is to the US climate mitigation effort and how unserious green proposals to address the issue without nuclear energy are.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/07/15/nuclear-diablo-canyon-p...

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jul 19, 2016

Clayton, I’ll compromise and offer a clarification: The fossil fuel and renewable companies however, do have a very strong incentive to tell lies about nuclear! They have little need to do so directly, since there are so many “green” organizations (eg. Sierra Club, NRDC, Riverkeepers, etc) with very strong anti-nuclear platforms, that are happy to accept money from fossil fuel companies, that will spread the message on their behalf.

For sources, please Google “atomic insights smoking gun”.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jul 19, 2016

I didn’t assume that wind must always be used in a grid mix with substantial fossil fuel, it’s demonstrated by studies such as the recent one from NOAA and UC Boulder (we’ve discussed it before). The only assumption I’ve made that forces this interpretation is that the US (and poor countries) will not accept the sort of high electricity prices that rich Germans have inflicted upon themselves.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 19, 2016

Dennis, Bill Edge makes it clear Georgia Power is authorized to spend $6.446 billion it can bill to ratepayers. Not a penny more. So I have no idea what you mean by “it is almost 100 percent certain that the utility will be allowed to put at least that amount [$6.446 billion] in rate base”, or whether it has any basis in Georgia Public Utility Code, or case law, or history. Is this just unfounded speculation on your part?

onedit: a rhetorical question, of course. Though Bill Edge had the courtesy to respond to you, I have yet to see you respond to any of your critics. Throw it out there and see what sticks, eh?

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Jul 19, 2016

And so you think I should answer all non correct texts some journalist writes about germany while not looking at the situation in germany?
Well, I pay about 26 ct/kWh here, as end user, including all levies. 2,5-3ct/kWh is wholesale price. 7,5ct/kWh is grid costs, since grid costs here are devided only by half of kWh per connection as in the US, because use of electricity is much more efficient here – same result for the people with half of kWh used.
And it costs more because in has a much higher redundancy than the US grid – significant higher design standards here.
6,2ct/kWh is EEG, which is the support for renewable energy development, wich is what you are talking about. The rest is simple taxes which you do not pay in the US.
So corrected by to the same cost /connection at the position of grid costs, with US tax regulation, including EEG-Costs, my cost per kWh with the structures her would be 12,5ct/kWh+ earnings of the Utility , all support for renewables already included. . Uuups thats about the same price you have in the US…..
(You pay a lot of things in many places in a monthly contributen which are payed here on per kWh base, too)

What is a problem is NIMBY and BANABAS delaying grid extensions – no permanent delay, but a lot of court decisions against nonsense claims, which nevertheless are alowed in a legal system are neccesary. Which cost time. And this time costs money.South-North capacity alomg the main routes of the grid in this direction is so far only about 20GW netto, but should be around 40GW for the next years.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Jul 19, 2016

Well, in your nuclear fairy tale woeld this may look like this.
But knowing the russian regulations, I can tell you that no death by cancer is counted as death by chenobyl. because the order to the doctors in russia is, that no death is to be counted as death according to radiation if there is the theoretical posibility that some mnatural cause could have the same result. which is always possible with cancer. So only those are counted in chernobyl which died of immediate ratdiation poisoning.
Which is why the russians count 62 persons killed, while WHO counts up to 4000 people when including cancer. www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr38/en/ Ohers count much more. Fact is: only very few of the ca. 800.000 liquidators of 1986 survived till today. http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/tschernobyl-die-letzten-liquidator...
Everybody who has a mathemathical education knows that this is not possible without a common cause wich reduces lifespan below average. Do a simple Chi² test with 95%, 99% or 99.9% confidence interval, and look at the results.
But I know you will stick to your nuclear pipe dreams despite all mathemathics.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Jul 19, 2016

No this study tells how muc fossil fuels will be replaced on the base fuel costs (fossil fuels ) > LCOE-Cost including earnongs (renewables) It tells absolutely nothing about what is neccesary to balance renewable generation in a large grid.
If you do not see this, I give you a hint: The necessity to balance renewables does _not_ depend on gas prices. So if the result of the study is a graph with gas prices in the x-axis, it is not suitable to proof your claim.
So please proof your wild claim about wind and solar. Show that you have some knowledge about electric grids. IT might take some more work than copying the same graph over and over again. And you might lean a lot while trying to proof your claim.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Jul 19, 2016

So you want to tell, if those $6.446 billion are spent, antd there are still e.g. 4 billion to complete the power station, they will quietly write off that $6.446 billion and close down the construction site and forget about nuclear????
Or would they sign a new allowence to spent the 4 billion of the example to avoid writing off the complete $6.446 billion?

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jul 19, 2016

Apparently you don’t understand the issue. I’m not saying that 100% renewable is un-achievable where infinite cost is allowed. I’m saying infinite costs will not be accepted and the renewable build-out will stop around 50% penetration. Continued growth in renewables is completely dependent on their economics relative to alternatives including fossil fuel.

If you wish to argue that German consumers will accept high enough costs to reach a certain renewable penetration, fine, but I don’t believe this will work in fossil fuel producing countries like America, China, and India.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 19, 2016

Georgia Power pulls in $9 billion/year in revenue. If there are $10 million, or $20 million, or $50 million in non-recoupable expenses at one of their power plants – like construction delays, or fighting off trumped-up Greenpeace legal challenges, or having to wait while anti-nuclear idiots read entire magazine articles at hearings, solely for the purpose of costing the company money – Georgia Power writes them off as losses.

If the abuses are egregious enough, energy companies will increasingly countersue Fear Factories (FFs) masquerading as environmental groups: “Friends of the Earth”, “Natural Resources Defense Council”, “Greenpeace”, “Environmental Defense Fund”, et al. Hopefully, they will read entire articles about global warming in court, running up legal costs for FFs…touché! You’ll see how efficient and expedient they can be in court when the tides are turned.

Georgia Power will then go to the Georgia Public Utility Commission and make the case these legal costs are legitimate costs of doing business, and should be borne by ratepayers. GPUC will probably agree. Because crackpots who think Georgia can get all of its electricity from the sun and wind are dwindling in number, and other Georgia ratepayers – the vast majority – would happily spend a couple of extra cents/kWh to shut them up. They’re worse than climate change deniers for fixing what’s ailing us with climate.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 19, 2016

Dennis, why are you posting this on the fossil-funded “Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis”? Seems like a rather obvious promotion for natural gas.

http://ieefa.org/blogs-georgia-powers-nuclear-expansion-project-faces-de...

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Jul 19, 2016

Nathan, thank you. There are a lot of pages there on coal, gas, biofuels (which I do not group with wind and solar), but I did not see any on renewables (wind and solar). Since you appear to be a frequenter of that nuclear advocacy site, I would appreciate if you could provide links that substantiate your insinuation that credible renewables companies use their resources to diminish nuclear.

A good way to test your thesis would be to go to SEIA or AWEA. A search on Nuclear at the SEIA site turns up very little on nuclear. Primarily polling results of all generation technologies with emphasis on solar being popular not a lot of text on nuclear one way or another.

Typing Nuclear into the search box at AWEA, the first thing that comes up is – http://www.aweablog.org/fact-check-wind-power-and-nuclear-can-successful...

A small group of nuclear advocates haunt the comments section of this blog and repeatedly roll out non-representative, cherry picked case studies of worst case scenarios, in an effort to undermine renewable energy. Bonneville power as a proxy for wind, Cape Wind as a proxy for wind power time lines and scale. This is unfortunate as it pollutes a potentially vibrant conversation.

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Jul 19, 2016

But, of course infinite costs are already off the table in the US. The RE Futures study used 80 Meter towers (low CF wind) and storage costs that have already been bettered. When that study came out there was no giga factory and the EV market was a big if. Now only a few hold outs think that Li-Ion batteries will not be well under $100 / kwhr by 2030. So RE Futures is an upper bound. At the time of its publication they said that 80% renewables was available for costs comparable to other clean scenarios (nuclear I assume). Recent Utility scale solar is going in with trackers and hitting 30% CF and very low delivered cost in areas with very little cloud cover – hence very predictable output mostly at peak.

So the upper bound in cost comes down quite a bit from the hyperbolic “infinite” you suggest. Great Plains Wind PPAs are coming in at about $30 / MWhr and HVDC is being quoted at around $30/ MWhr. Wind power continues to drop so lets say $40 / MWhr for energy cost (unsubsidized at 60% CF decorrelated with solar ) with another $30 / MWhr for transmission. That is about what we pay now out on the East coast and less than West Coasters pay. Solar is coming in at $50 / MWhr and over 30% CF. And much of the time it is providing power when demand is high and therefore should be compared to peak pricing and not average pricing. It is that it is now becoming commonplace to include trackers which substantially add to the solar output at times of peak demand (i.e. peak price when market based TOU metering is utilized.)

Any new nuclear will take at least 10 years to bring online and the cost we are seeing in current projects is high. In 10 years we will see $100 / kwhr Li-ion for transportation, high EV penetration and demand side charging, solar competitively priced with conventional, unsubsidized wind priced competitively with conventional , offshore wind reaching meaningful scale. It is really hard to imagine why anyone would want to impede that.

I believe that fossil fuels will bridge through 2030 but after that will be phased out quickly due to the increasing CF of renewables and collapsing price of storage. If any gas remains by 2040 it will be to bridge during late September when there is a seasonal lull even on a continental scale. And therefore I am finding it hard to see how it will have any appreciable impact on carbon.

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Jul 19, 2016

Nice straw man but the primary issue is a 6 year project that has morphed into a 10 year project and is billions over and continues to expand both the budget and the timeline. Environmental groups are inconsequential players in this tragedy. While emotions about environmental groups may make you feel like they are impacting the project significantly, no matter how much you stamp your feet your made up $10 million is small change compared to billions in real cost over runs. The primary problems are an inefficient process resulting in huge construction delays.

Nice Piece here as an update.

All whining aside, the feds have clearly been trying to nurture nuclear. They have provided loan guarantees and streamlined permitting. And even with a new design that is supposed to be simpler, less wiring, less plumbing, fewer pumps this project appears to be in an argument with itself. The nuclear industry has been given wonderful opportunities to show a new, leaner meaner rebirth. Unlike GM which has done a reasonable job of utilizing government largess to remake themselves into a more progressive company the nuclear folks seem to have retained their culture of excuse making and income by cost over run.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Jul 19, 2016

the primary issue is a 6 year project that has morphed into a 10 year project and is billions over and continues to expand both the budget and the timeline. Environmental groups are inconsequential players in this tragedy.

That’s the denial.  The truth is that “environmental” groups and the fossil interests behind them are responsible for things like Jaczko’s imposition of the aircraft-impact rule upon the already-approved-and-designed Vogtle project, putting it behind before ground had been broken.  They’re also responsible for the hyper-fine regulation, such that the difference between two versions of a rebar standard allowed the NRC to halt construction.  The base mat is so over-designed it is inconceiveable that the difference between two versions of the same standard could have any operational impact, let alone safety impact, but the “environmental” groups shoving “safety at any cost” at the NRC at every opportunity made it happen.

The primary problems are an inefficient process resulting in huge construction delays.

You can look at the time when the AEC had authority and find efficient construction.  There was a time when small design mistakes would just be fixed in the field.  Today they have to go through a whole NRC approval process.  Who demanded this process?  The “environmental” front groups for the FF interests.

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Jul 19, 2016

“Environmental groups are inconsequential players in this tragedy.”

In the near term scenarios that BM described I stand by this.

As far as the historical impact of environmental groups I think you make interesting points. However the temptation to paint all environmental groups as servants of FF is fantasy.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 19, 2016

No Clayton, the straw man is yours. The primary issue is cost to ratepayers, and Georgia Power’s average residential rate is 9¢/kWh – less than one-third of San Diego’s average residential rate (28¢/kWh), where solar panels work sometimes, cause blackouts when they don’t, and Sempra Energy sells billions of cubic feet of natural gas every day.

Meanwhile in Georgia Vogtle 1 & 2 are churning away, generating clean electricity night and day, windy or calm.

Maybe delayed construction on a plant of such sophistication and complexity make you feel like it’s impacting ratepayers significantly, but no matter how much you and Dennis Wamstead stamp your feet, $billions in cost overruns is chump change for a plant with the potential to generate baseload electricity for 80 years or longer.

Nuclear plants aren’t Tinker Toys, but don’t let them frighten you.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Jul 19, 2016

NMobody talks about infinite costs beside you. Please read my posts before answering.
You know the difference between Fuel costs and LCOE Costs including risk, earning and interest? If not, inform yourself about it.
The difference is very important here to understand your graphs. And why they do not proof high costs for renewables.
For coal fired power plants here I have the data ready at hand. They have fuel costs of around 2,5ct/kWh, depending on coal prices, so only when wholesale power prices are below this point they stop producing. This is the point which was looked at in your study, so when will the fleet of existing power plants leave the market under competition of renewables.
The second is the price where new power plants can be built and earn money for the investor. This price is very much higher. with 7-9ct/kwh for coal and 9-11ct/kWh for gas powered stations (in US the prices are different to some degree, but the principle is the same. )
Renewables win the “war” on price against new Coal, gas, nuclear capacity clearly, even including grid costs and similar to balance intermittency. What your graph shows, is that tey do not win the war old gas /coal /nuclear capacity against new renewables, where all the costs for power plants, grid connections, harbours, railroads, pipelines, etc. for the conventional capacity are sunk costs till 2030, and so without additional pressure the capacity of old plants shown in your graphs remains online at variable gas prices. Which still means that the owner of these plants have to write off most of their investment in the competition against renewables. till 2050 most of these invested either has to be invested again, or the market share of these existing plants just earning their fuel costs will be taken over by renewables piece by piece as the old conventional capacity gets scrapped due to old age.
This process would be to slow for the CO2 targets, and to unpredictable for grid security, because between going offline of broken old plants (where the last failure wich kills the plant economically is not predictable, and so new capacity might not be in place without a gap in the timeline, there is the wish to bring new renewable capacity online in a continuous process, and press conventional capacity out of the market not all at once, but faster than they would die in a undisturbed environment.
The prices for this new renewable capacity is higher than the wholesale market price wher conventional capacity is now in cutthroat competition based on fuelprice only to fight for some more years of survival of old plants. but already well below than the market price which would be neccesary for a continuous replacement of old conventional plants against new conventional plants.
And now back to your wild guess that renewables always need fossil back up even in big grids. there is still no fraction of a proof for this wild guess from your side. Although there is plenty of information for you on the market beside those only two graphs you alway copy in here, which have nothing to do with the topic as told above.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Jul 19, 2016

When that study came out there was no giga factory and the EV market was a big if. Now only a few hold outs think that Li-Ion batteries will not be well under $100 / kwhr by 2030.

The problems are manifold:

1.  Large-scale storage of electricity needs to be more like $5/kWh to make a most-RE grid economic.
2.  There’s a whopping load of energy use that isn’t electric (yet), and requires even cheaper supply/storage.

Solar is coming in at $50 / MWhr and over 30% CF.

I took a look at solar thermal.  The latest figure which includes storage (p. 25) is $6.76 per nameplate watt… and it only has 6 hours of storage.  This comes in at least twice the per-kWh cost of Vogtle.

much of the time it is providing power when demand is high and therefore should be compared to peak pricing and not average pricing.

It needs a LACE analysis, not LCOE.

Any new nuclear will take at least 10 years to bring online and the cost we are seeing in current projects is high.

New nuclear will produce power when wind and solar can’t.  This is the most precious power of all:  the most expensive kWh is the one you need and can’t get, often costing $1/kWh or more.

I believe that fossil fuels will bridge through 2030 but after that will be phased out quickly due to the increasing CF of renewables and collapsing price of storage.

A $50/kWh battery running the equivalent of a full cycle 1/week (storage to tide over weather patterns) lasting 10 years financed at 5% costs:

=PMT( 0.05/12; 120; -50; 0)*12/52

roughly 12¢/kWh JUST FOR STORAGE.  You need batteries to be in the $5/kWh range to bridge week-long lulls, and they are not infrequent.

I don’t know whether you’re deluded or shoveling propaganda.  I just wish you’d stop.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 20, 2016

Today’s NYTimes: How Renewable Energy Is Blowing Climate Change Efforts Off Course:

“Is the global effort to combat climate change, painstakingly agreed to in Paris seven months ago, already going off the rails?

Germany, Europe’s champion for renewable energy, seems to be having second thoughts about its ambitious push to ramp up its use of renewable fuels for power generation.

Hoping to slow the burst of new renewable energy on its grid, the country eliminated an open-ended subsidy for solar and wind power and put a ceiling on additional renewable capacity.

Germany may also drop a timetable to end coal-fired generation, which still accounts for over 40 percent of its electricity, according to a report leaked from the country’s environment ministry. Instead, the government will pay billions to keep coal generators in reserve, to provide emergency power at times when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine.

Renewables have hit a snag beyond Germany, too. Renewable sources are producing temporary power gluts from Australia to California, driving out other energy sources that are still necessary to maintain a stable supply of power.

In Southern Australia, where wind supplies more than a quarter of the region’s power, the spiking prices of electricity when the wind wasn’t blowing full-bore pushed the state government to ask the power company Engie to switch back on a gas-fired plant that had been shut down.

But in what may be the most worrisome development in the combat against climate change, renewables are helping to push nuclear power, the main source of zero-carbon electricity in the United States, into bankruptcy.

The United States, and indeed the world, would do well to reconsider the promise and the limitations of its infatuation with renewable energy.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/20/business/energy-environment/how-renewa...

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Jul 20, 2016

You know the difference between Fuel costs and LCOE Costs including risk, earning and interest?

Do you know the difference between LCOE and Levelized Avoided Cost of Energy?  Do you know what Externalized Cost is?

It doesn’t matter what your unreliable energy costs.  It could be free, but if the cost of delivering it when and where required is too much, or if the internal or external costs of backup because you can’t store it are too much, you fail.

The external cost of CO2 emissions is now estimated at USD220/tonne.  If your “renewable” system’s backup burns lignite at a charitable 800 gCO2/kWh, your external cost of emissions of your backup is USD0.176/kWh.  That includes none of the financing or O&M cost of any part of the system.

The second is the price where new power plants can be built and earn money for the investor. This price is very much higher. with 7-9ct/kwh for coal

So back out your €0.025/kWh fuel cost and we get financing and non-fuel O&M of €0.045-0.065/kWh, increased O&M from e.g. thermal cycling of furnace refractories not included.  Wanna run that at 25% capacity factor?  Quadruple it to €0.18-0.26/kWh and add fuel back in.  Throw in CO2 externalities at something like €0.15/kWh and you’ve got a total cost between €0.35 and €0.40 per kWh.

I’d like to think Germans were smart enough to be able to build and run zero-emission nuclear plants for less than half that, but given their rush to let in all the warring Muslims of the Middle East, Africa and southwestern Asia maybe they’ve all succumbed to ideological brain rot since 1945.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jul 20, 2016

Helmut, you’re still in denial of the well established point that renewable, even when connected to grids spanning vast areas, still don’t provide electricity that is as reliable as people want. Solar in cold climates requires precisely 100% backup from flexible generation, even with 12 hours of storage. Wind requires nearly complete backup, as demonstrated in the NREL EWITS study.

If you have proof to the contrary, please provide it.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jul 20, 2016

Enthusiasts keep telling us their rosy renewable projections; but they are never born out by the major studies. Please read the NOAA study again. Yes, their press release was rosy, but the data suggest the renewable deployment is headed for fossil fuel lockin. They studied the effect of cheap storage; even at only $0.75/Watt, their simulation showed negligible penetration.

Those great plains PPA which are so cheap due to the government subsidy. which at about 70%, is much bigger than is often thought (the ITC plus accelerated depreciation and bonus depreciation). And of course they are dependent on backup from the plentiful fossil gas.

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Jul 20, 2016

“You need batteries to be in the $5/kWh range to bridge week-long lulls, and they are not infrequent.”

Quite a claim. Could you provide a little backup for your claim that the sun does not shine for a week at time across the US.

Same for wind.

BTW, NREL already looked at this. With wind towers at 80m there was some difficulty in the early fall but none the rest of the year. Aggregation was very effective. We will have to see the data on 140 meter towers but given they nearly double the CF of today’s average I don’t think the data will be in your favor.

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