GA PSC Holds Firm on Vogtle, Nuclear in Georgia: There’s Still a Lot of Work to Do in the U.S.
In a very difficult policy decision today, the Georgia Public Service Commission (GA PSC) decided to move forward with construction of Vogtle Units 3 & 4, thus retaining nuclear power in Georgia’s future as well as continuing with the only remaining nuclear project in America. For this decision, I want to thank the PSC for their long-term vision and for their recognition of the benefits that nuclear power will provide for generations of Georgians over the next 60-80 years; non-monetized benefits that can’t necessarily be captured in an economic analysis or financial spreadsheet.
However, this is no time to spike the ball or break into a home run trot because we’re not in the end zone and the ball hasn’t cleared the fence. In fact, this isn’t necessarily a victory—it’s only permission to move forward with two much-needed nuclear reactors under conditions that must be met as construction continues. While I’m confident Vogtle will be completed, this decision by the GA PSC doesn’t stem the tide of nuclear plant closures across the U.S.—it only holds ground rather than losing it.
Nuclear power in the U.S. remains in critical condition. In part because of the challenge of inexpensive natural gas, particularly in deregulated markets that cannot detect the non-monetized benefits of nuclear power. These being, fuel diversity, zero-emission baseload, policy resilience and nuclear as a hedge against future carbon regulations and fluctuating natural gas prices. Not to mention the critical contributions of civilian U.S. nuclear power to national security. Moreover, nuclear remains under assault by factions of environmental activists who, as well-intentioned as they may be, continue to promote the irrational belief that we can power this country, even the entire world, with intermittent renewable energy. While we need greater penetration of renewables, we cannot look to these resources to stand up an $18 trillion industrialized economy on their own—even if battery technology matures.
With this said, there remains monumental work ahead of us to advocate for nuclear power and the development of greater nuclear power capacity in the U.S. While I’m greatly relieved the GA PSC held firm and did what was needed rather than what was easy, their go-ahead for Vogtle is only one step. It’s a significant step, but only one step, nonetheless.
The GA PSC’s long-term energy policy vision for Georgia must not be wasted. It must be extended to the rest of the U.S. We still have a lot of work to do in the nuclear power space.
A few references for my position on nuclear:
Forbes: An America Without Nuclear Power
Morning Consult: Nuclear Power in America Requires Political Resolve
Recently Accepted Manuscript (Pre-Publication Version): Strategic Policy Framework for Advancing U.S. Civilian Nuclear Power as a National Security Imperative