A Georgia regulator on why finishing Vogtle is a matter of national security

Photo from Plant Vogtle construction site on Thursday, May 11, 2016. Johnny Edwards / AJC

The troubled construction of two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle is now the only commercial nuclear project underway in the nation, and Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols has been one of the most forceful advocates of keeping it alive despite mounting financial questions.

In an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, Echols posits that nuclear-generated energy is a national security issue and that the much-delayed project will eventually be finished “with vision, perseverance and God’s help.”

A taste of Echols’ argument:

Diversifying the energy supply makes sense, because no one knows what the future holds. The U.S. could institute a carbon tax, or even regulate frackers out of a job. No matter what happens, nuclear reactors will ensure Georgia’s electric rates stay competitive.

They also will keep the U.S. from forfeiting its nuclear leadership. As other states have decommissioned reactors without replacing them, the world has begun looking to nations like China and Russia. The World Nuclear Association reports China is increasing its nuclear generation capacity 70% by 2021 and will surpass U.S. output by 2030. The only way for America to continue setting international standards for safety and security is to invest in reactors and technology.

On a related energy note, Johnny Kauffman over at WABE (90.1FM) reports how an international trade case over solar panel imports could kill the solar energy boom in rural Georgia.

Two bankrupt U.S. solar panel manufacturers, Solar World and Georgia-based Suniva, had a first hearing in Washington this week before the U.S. International Trade Commission, charging unfair overseas competition. Should the commission agree, and if President Donald Trump imposes tariffs, solar panel prices could double.

Insider’s note: This item was ripped from The Morning Jolt, which you can find here.

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Reader Comments 0

4 comments
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Starik
Starik

Another Georgia "regulator" working for the industry he's supposed to regulate. 

Concerned GA Public
Concerned GA Public

Tim Echols is no expert.

China and Russia have already surpassed the United States as the premier nuclear power plant providers. Westinghouse's AP1000 demonstrated the US's loss of proficiency.

Westinghouse sold the AP1000 design to China. Consistent with Chinese practices, they enhanced the design (fixed a few flaws and made it bigger) and now sell the CAP1400 for less than a Westinghouse AP1000. They are also working on a CAP1700.

Selling the design to China also creates security risks. China has the domestic AP1000 design and hardware associated with cyber security.

To hack a digital nuclear power plant, you need to know three things:

1 - The digital control and display hardware - China has that (domestic and foreign plants use the same hardware)

2 - The cyber security hardware used to protect digital control and display systems - China has that (again part of standard plant design)

3 - The strategies and software used to provide cyber security. Vogtle chose Westinghouse as the Cyber Security vendor. This is the same vendor used by China.

So, China has all the necessary elements to hack a domestic AP1000 just as the US has all the elements to hack the Sanmen or Haiyang Chinese AP1000s.

We should never share a digital nuclear power plant control system design, hardware, and/or cyber security strategy with a country viewed as a threat to the US for cyber security. In the case of the AP1000, that is exactly what we did.

One might argue that building a domestic AP1000 would be a risk to national security. Think about it.