During a presentation at the Oxford City Council work session Monday, representatives from the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia recommended Oxford buy into a portion of a nuclear power plant expansion, but sell those rights for the first 20 years.
According to the MEAG representatives, Oxford is not projected to need additional power until about 2035 and recommended that if it purchased power from the Plant Vogtle expansion, Oxford could sell it to two other energy authorities, PowerSouth in Alabama and JEA in Florida, from 2016 to 2036.
Oxford is one of 49 MEAG member cities considering whether to participate in the addition of two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in northeast Georgia.
Construction on the additions, which would cost MEAG about $3.136 billion in dollars adjusted to 2017 inflation and would give it 500 megawatts of capacityfor its 22.9 percent share of the plant, is slated to begin 2011, with the first unit coming online in 2016 and the second in 2017.
If Oxford were to buy the 0.5 MW of power over a 40 year period, as recommended by the MEAG representatives, it would cost the city about $3.13 million in 2017 dollars.
The purchasing agreement with JEA and PowerSouth would cover about half of that price, or about 72 percent of the effective cost given inflation, said Gary Schaeff, vice president of transmission.
Although information and projections about the plant expansion had been presented to member cities before, this was the first time pricing information had been made public. Previously, the cities were under a strict confidentiality agreement.
At the work session, MEAG representatives presented a chart comparing the average total cost of power from plants with various ways of burning coal and natural gas to the nuclear expansion.
In 2017, when both new units are scheduled to be online, electricity from all the sources ranges from 9 cents a kilowatt hour to 11 cents a kilowatt hour with nuclear at about 9.5 cents. In 2037, when Oxford is predicted to start needing additional base load energy, the difference becomes much more pronounced with energy from Vogtle predicted to be about 10.5 cents a kilowatt hour, or about 3 to 7 cents cheaper than the other energy sources.
Currently, Oxford depends on electricity generated from a combination of about half nuclear and half coal powered plants, according to the MEAG representatives.
The expanded Vogtle sites, also owned by Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, and the city of Dalton, would be base load plants, or plants that run continuously to provide the day to day electricity. Base load plants are more expensive to build than peaking plants, which are only run on peak load days, when there is extra demand, but cheaper to run than peak load plants.
Some of the concerns raised during the work session included disposal of the nuclear waste, which would be kept on site because the Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada was no longer available.
"No doubt it is a risk, but there are risks to everything we have in this current situation," said Shaeff.
Oxford resident David Eady, speaking as a citizen, questioned whether Oxford needed to be taking on the additional debt.
"If we don't need the capacity, it doesn't matter if nuclear is better," Eady pointed out.
Oxford has no major industrial players and currently has no major residential expansion, according to Mayor Jerry Roseberry. He said in some years, Oxford has been able to sell surplus power on the market and in other years has had to buy additional power on the market.
If Oxford does decide to participate and take up the power purchasing agreement, it will need to sign and turn in its contracts by June 15.
The city council is scheduled to discuss the matter at another work session May 27 at 7 p.m.