Below is written testimony I gave before the Georgia Public Service Commission this morning representing The Heartland Institute.
The public hearings were on the review of costs of construction of Georgia Power Company’s nuclear power plants Vogtle Units 3 and 4. About 80 individuals were in attendance at the hearings and with the exception of one other speaker, all speakers requested Georgia Power Company stop construction of the nuclear power plants.
The Need For Nuclear Power in Georgia Testimony before the Georgia Public Service Commission December 18, 2012
The Georgia Public Service Commission is charged with regulating electricity supply to Georgia’s citizens. Part of that mission is safe, reliable, and economical supply of electricity. To the great fortune of Georgians, this mission has been admirably accomplished for many decades. There has never been a shortage of electricity where citizen’s worried about supply and subjected to blackouts or rolling brownouts as experienced by Northeastern states or other states like Texas and California.
The Energy Information Administration’s latest price data shows the residential rate for Georgia customers September 2012-YTD is 11.19 cents per kilowatt-hour versus the national average of 11.91 cents per kilowatt-hour-a 6.4 percent reduction. This in spite of the fact Georgia has no coal, oil, natural gas or Columbia or Colorado Rivers as domestic energy resources. It is easy to have cheap electricity with power plants on mine-mouths, natural gas fields, or Hoover Dams. Much of Georgia’s energy for electricity production has to be transported over 1000 miles.
Georgia’s success may be attributed to its system of electing members of the Public Service Commission which make them more responsive to ratepayer’s welfare. Those who suggest changing this system do so at their peril. Adjusted for inflation, the cost of electricity today is as cheap as it has ever been.
Electricity in Georgia is supplied in approximate equal amounts by coal and natural gas and the remainder twenty five percent by four nuclear power plants. Two new 1100 Megawatt nuclear power plants are under construction which will increase Georgia’s capacity to generate nuclear electricity by more than 50 percent. Once the new nuclear units are in operation, Georgia could have nuclear power supply all its electricity in early mornings of mid-spring or mid-fall. There are complaints about using nuclear power from both economic and societal issues. These complaints are overshadowed when considering the increased reliability of electric power supply provided by these new units. Nuclear power can provide about one-third of Georgia’s electricity demand. The plants operate more than 90 percent of the time and refueling may take place at intervals as long as 18 months. Due to EPA and other governmental regulations, Georgia is gradually shifting electricity supply from coal to natural gas. Coal-fired plants can store ninety-day supplies of coal on the plant site; while the low density of natural gas as a fuel makes it impractical for storage of long term supplies. Those with long memories may remember John L. Lewis who frequently called miners out on strike which threatened electricity supply. Thus we have large coal piles as protection against supply disruptions. Natural gas supplies are disrupted by extreme weather events as shown by hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Georgia Public Service Commission’s support of present, and the two additional, nuclear power plants provides security against catastrophic loss of electricity supply and Georgia’s citizens should appreciate this concern. A factor not mentioned in support of nuclear power is its influence on domestic reserves of coal and natural gas. One of the new 1100 Megawatt nuclear power plants would consume over its 60-year lifetime as a fossil-fueled plant 230 million tons of coal or 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. This is equal to 23 percent of our annual use of either coal or natural gas. Nuclear power plants extend the life of our fossil fuel reserves far out into the future and reduce future price increases. Georgia’s six nuclear power plants would save more than one year’s use of natural gas or coal. Due to concerns about carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels causing catastrophic global warming, arguments are made to use solar energy as the future source of electricity for Georgia. Catastrophic events caused by carbon dioxide are not taking place as witnessed by global temperatures not rising the past 16 years while atmospheric carbon dioxide increased 30 parts per million. The argument global warming caused Arctic sea ice to fall to its smallest amount since 1979 is put to rest because a hurricane in the Arctic Ocean early August tore up the sea ice and propelled it down to regions of warmer water for faster melting. From its minimum amount September 16, Arctic sea ice has been restored by 3.1 million square miles as of December 10–a record recovery rate. Georgia’s Public Service Commission should examine all sources of electricity generation and solar energy is within their purview. Georgia has about two-thirds the prospect for generating electricity compared to desert areas of California, Nevada, and Arizona. California has mandated 33 percent of its electricity must come from renewable energy sources like solar and wind by 2020. This mandate is nowhere close to being met and the latest residential electricity rate for California is 13.94 cents per kilowatt-hour and rising-49 percent higher than Georgia. As California electricity rates spiral out of control, the motto of the state may be, “Will the last person leaving California blow out the candle.” Georgia should resist any attempt to mandate electricity production by any form. Mandates in other states have caused increased electricity rates. Governments are not noted for making wise economic decisions.