Plant Vogtle Expansion Granted Two Week Reprieve

The Plant Vogtle expansion project in Waynesboro, Ga., remains in financial limbo this week as Georgia Power agreed to extend a 30-day interim agreement to keep construction moving forward, saying Friday that they had added another two weeks to the current interim agreement. Another decision on whether or not to keep the project going will be announced May 12, the company said in a press statement released after the close of business day on Friday.

Vogtle expansionIn the next two weeks “the parties will continue to work on finalizing a new service agreement which would, if necessary, assure that Westinghouse continues to provide design, engineering and procurement services to Southern Nuclear as part of their assumption of control over construction management,” the statement said.

The project has been operating under an agreement that reportedly costs Georgia Power $5.4 million each week. The extension agreed to on Friday was made just two hours before the first 30-day agreement was to expire, reports indicate.

The expansion project at Plant Vogtle involves construction of two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors which, along with two under construction in South Carolina and four under construction in China, are the first of this design to be built.

The agreement was announced just a few hours after SCANA and Westinghouse agreed to extend the construction project in Jenkinsville, S.C., through June 26, a six-week reprieve.

Westinghouse, meanwhile, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on March 29. Georgia Power said that Westinghouse is still under contractual obligation regarding services related to Plant Vogtle construction, although the bankruptcy filing has thrown into question the company's ability to fulfill its obligations.

With the Westinghouse filling comes an onslaught of media reports concerning the delays and cost overruns at the Westinghouse projects that are being blamed for the company's financial problems. Less attention, currently, is being paid to the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi generating station in Japan that suffered a triple-meltdown, putting the entire nuclear power industry into a tailspin. Certainly with orders up on the fundamentals related to global warming -- a stronger possibility without the accident -- Westinghouse might have been in a far stronger position financially at this point and able to withstand the delays and overruns that are being blamed for its bankruptcy.

The Augusta Chronicle reported that Georgia Public Service Commission vice-chairman Tim Echols opined that one of the current options for Plant Vogtle was to turn over the nuclear power option to natural gas generators, utilizing some of the infrastructure already in place.

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