PSC member: Vogtle nuclear expansion will survive Toshiba collapse

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In this 2014 photo, a new cooling tower for a nuclear power plant reactor that's under construction stands near the two operating reactors at Plant Vogtle power plant in Waynesboro, Ga. AP/John Bazemore

The public relations arm of Georgia Power has a busy day ahead. From Bloomberg News:

Toshiba Corp. says it expects to book a 712.5 billion yen ($6.3 billion) writedown in its nuclear power business, citing cost overruns at a U.S. unit and diminishing prospects for its atomic-energy operations. Shigenori Shiga will step down as chairman of the conglomerate….logo-all

 

Toshiba’s $5.4 billion acquisition of Westinghouse in 2006 was a bet on the future of nuclear power and a way to balance volatility of chip operations with steady long-term revenues. The vision has soured after the 2011 Fukushima meltdown dampened demand and the company’s next-generation AP1000 modular reactor technology proved difficult to implement….

This wasn’t unexpected. The AJC’s Russell Grantham reported the following two weeks ago:

Toshiba Corp., expected to soon report huge losses on Georgia’s Vogtle nuclear plant expansion and a similar project in South Carolina, is backing away from its nuclear power plant business, according to a Japanese newspaper.

 

The Japan Times reported Saturday that Tokyo-based Toshiba will continue working on those projects, expected to be completed by 2020.

 

But it will stop taking new orders for nuclear plants, effectively marking its withdrawal from the nuclear plant construction business, the newspaper said.

 

Georgia Power, the managing partner and largest owner of the Plant Vogtle project, said it is monitoring the matter but expects Toshiba’s subsidiary involved in the project, Westinghouse Electric Co., to be able to complete the project.

 

“Under this agreement, Westinghouse has taken the actions required in connection with Toshiba’s financial condition,” Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins said.

And here’s more from Grantham on Southern Co.’s struggles.

Still, the fact that ratepayers have been advancing cash for the Vogtle nuclear expansion project makes Toshiba’s troubles a ticklish issue. In December, the state Public Service Commission approved a settlement with Georgia Power on cost overruns that the agency says will save the utility’s customers about $325 million.

As a result of the deal, Georgia Power has agreed to no increases in its surcharge to finance the nuclear project. The surcharge on customers’ bills, which typically now costs residential customers about $7 a month, otherwise would have risen to about $8.25 next year, PSC officials said last month.

Early this morning, via Twitter, PSC member Tim Echols told ratepayers not to worry. After we caught up with him, Echols sent us these bullet points, expanding on his point:

-We have a fixed and firm agreement with Westinghouse that has protected our customers from a large majority of overruns.

-The Toshiba write-down is evidence of the strength of our contract.

-The contract also provides for additional protections through letters of credit and a parental guarantee.

-We expect Westinghouse to honor the agreement and finish the units.

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Town hall meetings have suddenly become inconvenient for some Republicans faced with questions about how to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. But Buddy Carter is plowing ahead. The congressman from the Savannah area has five scheduled next week, in five counties, according to the Brunswick News.

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Let it never be said that Gov. Nathan Deal’s friendship with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is faltering in the final days of their two political terms.

The governor has appointed Reed’s wife Sarah-Elizabeth Reed to the powerful Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s higher education system, passing over many GOP donors and other allies who have long sought that seat.

The governor’s office pointed to her credentials in announcing her appointment, and there are many: She holds a law degree from Howard University, sits on several non-profit boards and has won awards in early childhood education.

But her appointment is also rife with political symbolism, the latest testament to a bipartisan friendship that has survived two re-election campaigns and, now, two presidential administrations.  Where Deal once looked to Reed for help with the Obama administration, Hizzoner must turn to Deal for some pull with Trump’s White House.

And the GOP governor has signaled he’s more than willing to help.

His top aide, Chris Riley, has attacked critics of Reed on Twitter who have questioned the mayor’s legacy. He invited the mayor to speak to a group of state agency heads. And now the governor’s tapped his wife for a coveted spot on the higher education system that will last well into his successor’s term.

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The Fayette County News reports that Lane Watts, a former chairman of the Fayette GOP and the Third District GOP, has been found in violation of state election laws:

An order signed Feb. 6 by Administrative Law Judge Ronit Walker ruled that Lane Watts had violated laws of the Georgia Election Code by submitting false information to the Fayette County Board of Elections and Voter Registration. The decision called for three sanctions: Payment of a $5,000 civil penalty to the State Election Board, cease and desist from further violations, and a public reprimand.

The violation dates back several years.  In 2011, following redistricting by the Legislature that moved him from the Third to 13th district, Watts changed his address to a Peachtree City address in the Third District. Under that address, in 2012, he was elected as precinct delegate to the Fayette County Republican Party Convention.

After the March presidential primary in 2012, Watts shifted his address back to property in the 13th District, and sought election as a delegate for the national Republican convention in Tampa.

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The office of state Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, is circulating a petition on social media renewing a push for the Georgia Senate to commend longtime Atlanta figure Sally Yates.

It comes hours after news broke that the recently fired acting attorney general warned the Trump administration that national security adviser Michael Flynn misled top officials and could be vulnerable to blackmail.

“She is worthy of recognition from the Georgia State Senate, and today Senate leadership bypassed norms to bury a resolution honoring her service to Georgia out of what can only be explained as partisan politics,” the petition states.

 


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