Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Georgia nuclear power plant could be Solyndra redux, report says

A report by two energy-consulting firms says the US government has not protected US taxpayers well enough against the risks of federal loan guarantees to a new nuclear power project.

By Staff writer / January 30, 2013

An earth mover works on a new nuclear reactor at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Augusta, Ga., late last year. A new report criticizes federal loan guarantees to the project.

John Bazemore/AP/File

Enlarge

Construction of the first newly licensed US nuclear power plant in decades could become a "Solyndra-like" debacle thanks to billions in federal loan guarantees whose terms appear too weak to protect taxpayers, according to one group’s analysis of internal documents released by the US Department of Energy

Skip to next paragraph

The two-reactor $14 billion Vogtle plant being built in Georgia is seen as a test of the US nuclear industry's planned "renaissance" with a new nuclear reactor design and updated construction processes all aimed at cutting time and costs. 

But two Massachusetts-based energy-consulting firms, Earth Track and Synapse Energy Economics, say the $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees backing the project were crafted with excessively favorable financial terms for the recipient companies, weak federal oversight, and possible political interference in the loan-guarantee process.      

The two firms analyzed hundreds of Energy Department e-mails and financial documents released earlier this month to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), a green-energy watchdog group that won access to them in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. 

Officials for the Obama administration and Southern Company, the company that will operate the plants, say there's nothing improper going on. 

In their report, Earth Track and Synapse say the documents reveal:

  • "Potentially troubling" conversations between political appointees and borrowers over loan terms and getting the deal done.
  • Credit subsidy payments, the amount that companies pay in compensation for the government loan guarantees, that appear far too low to offer adequate protection to taxpayers in the event of a default. 
  • An "over-reliance on external contractors" for key risk evaluations. 
  • Continued tinkering with credit subsidy assessment tools even after credit subsidy estimate letters were sent to borrowers, leaving taxpayers with more risk than necessary.  
Permissions

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Doing Good

 

What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!