Georgia’s Uncertain Nuclear Future

Vogtle Unit 1, the first nuclear power plant in Georgia began operation in 1987. Two years later, Vogtle Unit 2 commenced operation. As with many of the nuclear power plants built in the late 1980s, the Vogtle Unit 1 and Unit 2 projects experienced significant cost overruns.

In 2009, Georgia Power began construction on the first new U.S. nuclear power plant in over twenty years. The new nuclear power project, Vogtle Unit 3 and Unit 4 were initially estimated to cost between $18.3 billion and $19.8 billion. Unfortunately, the construction of Vogtle Unit 3 and Unit 4 have experienced significant cost overruns. The revised estimate to complete the two nuclear reactors is now $25 billion. Vogtle Unit 3 and Unit 4 are still forecast to go on line in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

The cost of electricity from nuclear energy is $0.35 per kWh, compared to $0.04 to $0.05 per kWh for natural gas, hydropower, wind or solar energy. Nuclear reactors don’t emit greenhouse gases, but when the nuclear reactor is close, the issue of nuclear waste disposal must be addressed. Georgia has significant undeveloped solar resource potential, but limited undeveloped hydropower or wind potential.

Georgia is faced with an energy conundrum. To keep lights on throughout the state, Georgia may have to choose between expensive nuclear energy, which has no greenhouse gases or inexpensive natural gas, which has significant greenhouse gases. Natural gas is not a renewable resource and at some point, in the not too distant future will be depleted. In my opinion, Georgia may want to continue with the Vogtle Unit 3 and Unit 4 projects.

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