Home Energy and Environment Dominion Admits Cost of North Anna 3 Nuclear Plant Will Top $19...

Dominion Admits Cost of North Anna 3 Nuclear Plant Will Top $19 Billion

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(Wild waste of money…could have invested that in energy efficiency/solar/wind and gotten a gazillion times more bang for our buck! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…. – promoted by lowkell)

Dominion Virginia Power is projecting that the capital cost of a third nuclear reactor at its North Anna facility will total over $19 billion, according to filings in its 2015 biennial review before the State Corporation Commission (PUE-2015-00027).  

This works out to over $13,000 per installed kilowatt, according to the testimony of Scott Norwood, an energy consultant hired by the Attorney General’s Department of Consumer Counsel to analyze Dominion’s earnings evaluations. He notes that this capital cost is “approximately ten times the capital cost of the Company’s new Brunswick combined cycle unit,” which will burn natural gas.

As a result of this high capital cost, the  “total delivered cost of power from NA3 is more than $190 per MWh in 2028.” That translates into 19 cents per kilowatt-hour.

By comparison, in 2014 the average wholesale price of electricity in the PJM region (which includes Virginia) was 5.3 cents per kWh. Dominion currently sells electricity to its customers at retail for between 5.5 and 11 cents/kWh.

In other words, NA3 is ridiculously expensive.

Dominion had kept its cost projections for NA3 secret until this rate case forced the disclosure. Previously, executives had acknowledged only that the cost would be “far north of 10 billion.”

This cost revelation may point to the real reason Dominion pushed so hard for SB 1349, the 2015 legislation that insulates the company from rate reviews until 2022. As Norwood testifies, “DVP forecasts a dramatic increase in NA3 development costs over the next five years, during which there will be no biennial reviews.”  

These costs are dramatic. A table included in Norwood’s testimony shows Dominion expects to have spent $4.7 billion on NA3 development by the end of 2020. By the time the SCC is allowed to review this spending, more than one-quarter of the total cost will have been spent, and Dominion will be looking to ratepayers to cover the bills.

With perfect deadpan, meanwhile, Dominion executives told legislators this year that SB 1349 was necessary to protect ratepayers from higher costs to be imposed by compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

This isn’t the first time legislators have been snookered in the cause of NA3. Recall that in 2014 Dominion succeeded in lobbying for a law that allowed it to shift 70% of already-spent NA3 development costs onto ratepayers, some $323 million. The effect was to soak up the company’s over-earnings so it would not have to rebate millions of dollars to customers.

This year’s snookering was more comprehensive. Given that Dominion has continued to over-earn, those who opposed SB 1349 assumed it was this year’s version of the 2014 maneuver, designed to protect over-earnings this year and for years to come. Now it appears the real purpose of SB 1349 was to allow Dominion to spend freely on NA3 development costs in amounts that it knew would be unacceptable to state regulators, not to mention the public.

That Dominion thought it could do so in secret is especially reprehensible. Lawmakers and the Governor should be outraged by this deception, whether they voted for SB 1349 or not.

The Attorney General’s office is now trying to force Dominion to justify NA3 to regulators before it racks up billions in sunk costs. Norwood recommends that the SCC “initiate a proceeding to address the prudence of DVP’s planned future investments for development of NA3. This proceeding would allow the Company to present its case regarding the need for and cost effectiveness of NA3, including the value of the proposed project from a fuel diversity perspective and as a means to comply with any final version of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan and other potential future environmental regulations.”

  • TBill

    $19B seems to maybe not pass the “funny look test”, but I am willing to tentatively buy your premise pending further analysis.  Since neither elected officials nor Dominion have given a valid rationale for SB 1349, especially since EPA CPP now seems less onerous for Va., concerned citizens can speculate as you have. I would too.  

  • essequamverderi

    Without digging into the specifics of the $19 billion dollar price tag I think it’s worth asking the following questions:

    1. How much electricity would be generated from North Anna 3? How does this compare to an equivalent amount of electricity generated from solar, wind, etc?

    2. When would North Anna 3 come online and how would this affect:

    -Virginia’s energy mix

    compliance with federal regulation (such as the various recent carbonbased regulations)

    Virginia’s opportunities to take part in a carbontrading market

    3. How much would alternative electricity generation sources cost to achieve an equivalent amount of electricity output as North Anna 3? Are there any restrictions on those alternative power sources and, if so, what are they (e.g. solar needs the sun to be shining in lieu of storage technology)

    And so forth. As a Democrat, I’m generally for nuclear energy because I believe it can substantially help the United States achieve carbon-reduction targets necessary to combat global climate change. I’m also for solar, wind, etc. but I believe we need to have an energy mix that reflects stable electricity production capable of meeting energy demand as that demand occurs. Until we develop storage technology, electricity generated from solar and wind remain problematic for peaking energy demand. Moreover, I remain concerned about the land-usage necessary for solar and wind. These latter concerns are just that: concerns but not deal-breakers. We need more solar, wind, energy efficiency, etc.

    The price tag for nuclear is indeed high but that cost may very well be worth it to combat global climate change.