October 6, 2017
Dear Senator McConnell,
We are writing as scientists, conservationists and environmentalists to urge your strong support of the Alvin W. Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant in Georgia, where the construction of two new reactors remains at risk of cancellation despite continued support from Southern Company and multiple stakeholding utilities.
The completion of Vogtle urgently requires the broad backing of the federal government through an extension of the 2005 Energy Policy Act’s Production Tax Credit for nuclear generation. There is already strong support from the administration in the form of the recent loan guarantee announced by Energy Secretary Perry, and the President is ready to sign the bill once it is presented to him. As Senate Majority Leader you have the power to build a Senate coalition in favor of the extension.
It is particularly critical to continue the construction of Vogtle’s new reactors now that the expansion of the V.C. Summer Generating Station in South Carolina was cancelled earlier this year. Moreover, this comes during a time of nuclear plant closures and proposed closures in California, Vermont, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.
The two new Vogtle reactors would generate more than 18 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity annually and could cut Georgia’s coal use in half. Coal pollution is a major factor behind respiratory disease and lower infant birth weight, and Georgia ranks 9th in deaths from electricity-generated particulate matter nationally, according to a 2013 study by MIT researchers. By keeping the Vogtle reactors, Georgia will avoid emissions from coal that would have been equivalent to adding 3.7 million cars to the road, and preserve enough carbon-free electricity to power 3.9 million electric vehicles.
Georgia receives one-quarter of its total power from nuclear plants that currently employ more than 1,600 highly skilled workers. Ensuring the continued construction of Vogtle’s new reactors will immediately preserve thousands of in-state construction jobs and create an additional 800 permanent jobs.
The expansion of Vogtle will promote long-term energy diversity in the South and save Georgian ratepayers billions of dollars compared to the rates that they would pay for electricity generated by wind and solar. And it would cost only slightly more than replacement by natural gas, which is currently at historically low prices but notorious for its price volatility.
The two new Vogtle reactors will be first-of-a-kind AP1000s, and their construction represents the first new nuclear build in the United States in 30 years. To abandon construction at Vogtle will be a failure of America’s global leadership to invest in the production of clean, safe, affordable, and reliable energy for millions of Americans, both today and in the future.
While the unfamiliar reactor design has presented some challenges, the remaining work on Vogtle’s expansion will be manageable as all of the major forgings and equipment are completed and onsite. Moreover, China has successfully completed the construction of the first two AP1000 reactors at the Sanmen Nuclear Power Station, which will serve as working examples for the Vogtle reactors.
The Georgia Public Service Commission must decide by early 2018 if they will continue with construction on Vogtle, but their support depends on the successful extension of the federal production tax credit by the end of the year.
It will take courage on the part of the nation’s public servants to complete the expansion of Vogtle, but the choice to do so will represent their commitment to the environment, jobs and the American people.
James Hansen, Climate Scientist, Earth Institute, Columbia University
Michael Shellenberger, President, Environmental Progress
Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Steven Pinker, Harvard University, author of Better Angels of Our Nature
Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize recipient, author of Nuclear Renewal and The Making of the Atomic Bomb
Robert Stone, filmmaker, “Pandora’s Promise”
Erle C. Ellis, Ph.D, Professor, Geography & Environmental Systems, University of Maryland
Christopher Foreman, author of The Promise & Peril of Environmental Justice, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland
Kirsty Gogan, Executive Director, Energy for Humanity
Joshua S. Goldstein, Prof. Emeritus of International Relations, American University
Steve Kirsch, CEO, Token
Joe Lassiter, Professor, Harvard Business School
John Lavine, Professor and Medill Dean Emeritus, Northwestern University
David Lea, Professor, Earth Science, University of California
Martin Lewis, Department of Geography, Stanford University
Mark Lynas, author, The God Species and Six Degrees
Michelle Marvier, Professor, Environmental Studies and Sciences, Santa Clara University
Norris McDonald, President, Environmental Hope and Justice
Alan Medsker, Coordinator, Environmental Progress - Illinois
Richard Muller, Professor of Physics, UC Berkeley, Co-Founder, Berkeley Earth
Samir Saran, Vice President, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi, India
Jeff Terry, Professor of Physics, Illinois Institute of Technology
CC: Senator Hatch (R-UT)
Senator Isakson (R-GA)
Energy Secretary Perry
Senate Minority Leader Schumer