Facing South

Judge rules permitting of new Georgia nuclear reactors illegal

plant_vogtle_nrc.jpgThe Georgia Public Service Commission violated state law when it granted a permit to build two new nuclear reactors at the Southern Company/Georgia Power Plant Vogtle near Augusta, Ga.

A Fulton County Superior Court judge ruled last week that the PSC failed to detail why the plant's expansion is in the public interest, as required by law. The decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

"We applaud the Judge's decision and continue to find it incredible that the Georgia Public Service Commission would put $14 billion of ratepayer money at risk on this project without properly documenting the factual basis behind this high risk decision," said SACE Executive Director Stephen Smith.

At last week's hearing on the lawsuit, Judge Wendy Shoob heard SACE's allegation that the PSC made a legal error by failing to make findings of fact and conclusions of law as required. Specifically, the group alleged that the PSC did not provide the required written justifications for its findings that would "afford an intelligent review" by the courts.

The judge agreed with SACE, finding that the PSC acted in violation of state law by failing to support its findings.

"Like the devastating oil disaster unfolding in the Gulf, decision makers that support questionable practices must be scrutinized in order for the public to be properly protected," said Michael Carvalho, an attorney for SACE.

In February, the Obama administration announced that it was awarding $8.3 billion-worth of taxpayer-financed conditional loan guarantees for the project as part of its effort to boost the commercial nuclear power industry. If the project goes forward, it would represent the first groundbreaking for nuclear reactors in the U.S. in 30 years.

The company has 90 days to accept the loan guarantee but recently asked for a 30-day extension. PSC says it's talking to its attorneys about next steps.

(Photo of Plant Vogtle from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's website.)

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re: Judge rules permitting of new Georgia nuclear reactors illeg

Disturbing. Not having seen the opinion, I'm left wondering if the applicants literally made no case for public benefit, or just a very thin one. One would like to think licensing practices, whether at state or federal level, have improved over the long hiatus, but perhaps that's just naivete creeping up on me.