Betraying Ratepayers and Clean Energy Future, Georgia Panel Approves Vogtle Nuclear Reactors
By Jessica Corbett
Georgia's public utility commission voted 5-0 on Thursday to continue construction on two half-finished nuclear reactors that will cost an estimated $25 billion, even though the project is now "more than $10 billion over budget and five years late."
Opponents of nuclear power were disappointed by the unanimous decision, which the Wall Street Journal noted was considered "a victory for Southern Co., whose subsidiary Georgia Power is the primary owner of the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, which has two existing reactors." The project has faced opposition from local residents as well as national groups that emphasize the long-term risks of nuclear power.
"Georgia Power should scrap this disaster immediately and instead transition away from dangerous nuclear and fossil fuel-based electric generation and toward a 100 percent clean energy economy that creates good jobs, protects our environment, and shields our communities from the gross financial risks associated with bad bets like Vogtle," said Ted Terry, director of the Sierra Club's Georgia Chapter, after the vote.
"Georgia Power's profits have soared because they've been allowed to pick the pockets of families, schools and churches for a boondoggle that even the [public utility commission's] staff has called too uneconomic to continue—yet today commissioners chose not to stop it," Terry added. "The commission has failed Georgia's hard-working families and businesses today by choosing to be lapdogs for Georgia Power instead of watchdogs for the people of Georgia."
Construction on the reactors "has been plagued by delays and spiraling costs, compounded when the main contractor filed for bankruptcy" in March, the Associated Press reported.
"Most people have to pay for their mistakes, but Georgia Power is still profiting from theirs," said Kurt Ebersbach, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. "There's something wrong with a system that rewards this kind of failure."
The decision will likely "shape the future of the nation's nuclear industry, partly because the reactors at Plant Vogtle were the first new ones to be licensed and to begin construction in the U.S. since 1978," the AP noted—all while consumers of power in Georgia pay the price.
"Under state law, Georgia Power's 2.4 million customers will ultimately reimburse the state-regulated monopoly for the flagship plant as they pay their monthly electricity bills," the AP explained. "That law allows Georgia Power to charge its customers now for the interest it pays on the borrowed money needed for the project. Under an older law, the utility had to wait until the plant was operating to collect those interest charges from its customers, a practice that meant the interest owed grew during the construction period."
"Even though customers had no control over Georgia Power's mistakes, they're going to be the ones footing the bill," said Nathaniel Smith, chief equity officer at the Atlanta-based nonprofit Partnership for Southern Equity. "These impacts will be especially difficult on the most vulnerable Georgians who are already struggling to put food on the table."
However, there may still be hope for cancelling the project. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Georgia utility regulators "conditioned their approval of the Vogtle nuclear project on no small caveat: that Congress approves roughly $800 million worth of tax credits"—meaning that if federal lawmakers don't approve the tax credits, the state regulators may reconsider their decision.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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