The Trump administration announced conditional commitments for $3.7 billion in loan guarantees to keep the country’s last new nuclear power plant construction effort from folding. It’s the first time the administration has tapped the Energy Department loan guarantee program that also funded Solyndra, and comes on top of $8.3 billion in federally-backed loan guarantees received by the project over its 10-year lifetime.
The decision to extend DOE loan guarantees to the struggling Vogtle power plant in Georgia was not unexpected, given that it was necessary for the project to survive. It was also presumed to be part of a package that allowed Georgia state regulators to vote last month to allow the project to move forward.
Co-owners of the project will receive loan guarantees of $1.67 billion to Georgia Power, $1.6 billion to Oglethorpe Power Corp. and $415 million to three subsidiaries of Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia. However, they will need to be matched by a few more conditions, including extending federal tax credits for new nuclear units, and receiving a $3.7 billion payment guarantee from Toshiba, the parent company of bankrupt nuclear power plant developer Westinghouse.
Toshiba made its first, critical payment for the Vogtle nuclear expansion project today. The $300 million funds transfer, of which $137 million is Georgia Power's proportionate share, is the first of multiple scheduled payments to the project's co-owners.
This decision comes amid a rash of cancellations of large-scale Southeastern nuclear power projects. In July, Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) abandoned plans last month to complete two reactors already under construction. In August, Duke Energy canceled work on its Levy Nuclear Project in Florida and its Lee Nuclear Station in North Carolina, both as part of rate-case settlements with state regulators.
The cancellations have largely been precipitated by the bankruptcy of Westinghouse, but they’ve also come alongside policy and economics-driven nuclear power plant closures and accelerated retirements. Recent closures include California’s San Onofre plant, Wisconsin’s Kewaunee plant, Vermont’s Yankee plant and Florida’s Crystal River plant. New York’s Indian Point facility and Diablo Canyon -- California’s last remaining nuclear power plant -- are slated to close in the coming years. (Greentech Media, 9/2/2017)