Congress moves to aid Georgia's troubled nuclear project

WASHINGTON -- Senators on Wednesday began laying the groundwork to aid the country's only remaining new nuclear project under construction, the Augusta-area Plant Vogtle, less than a day before Georgia utility regulators are scheduled to rule on its fate.

The leaders of the tax-writing Finance Committee unveiled legislation that would guarantee the project roughly $800 million in federal tax credits, money Vogtle's operators have long been counting on for their balance sheets.

The language, which Georgia's congressional delegation has been lobbying hard for this year, would end the 2021 sunset date for the previously-promised nuclear production tax credits. Vogtle's operators would receive the credits only after the new units go fully into operation.

The extension was needed since the project is not scheduled to be complete until 2022.

Read more: Public Service Commission scheduled to decide Plant Vogtle’s fate

It is still unclear when both chambers of Congress will consider the legislation. Nuclear industry lobbyists have been pushing for lawmakers to consider the language as part of a must-pass government spending agreement later this week, but time on Capitol Hill is in short supply before the holiday break. U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson suggested Tuesday that Congress could wait until January and then make the credits retroactive.

“I encourage my Senate colleagues to act quickly to prevent tax increases that could hamper America’s energy security,” Isakson said in a statement Wednesday.

"I remain committed to doing whatever I can to ensure that the Plant Vogtle project stays on track for completion," he added.

The bill's introduction comes less than 24 hours before the Georgia Public Service Commission is scheduled to decide whether the companies behind the $23 billion Vogtle can pass more expenses onto their ratepayers. Construction of third and fourth reactors has been marred by cost overruns and delays that threaten the viability of the project.

Read more: 

Isakson confident Congress will quickly approve Vogtle money

GOP tax bill offers no help to Georgia nuclear project

Plant Vogtle’s fate could shake up next year’s race for Georgia governor

As Vogtle vote looms, Tim Echols asks: ‘Do you want to leave that stuff rusting ‘til Jesus comes?’

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that...