Vogtle Progress In Dramatic Year (With Video Clip)

With project manager and reactor designer Westinghouse Electric Company declaring bankruptcy in March this year, it was a dramatic, hectic, nerve-wracking year for the Plant Vogtle Expansion project in Waynesboro, Georgia. 

Vogtle December 2017Throughout the front-office drama, however, involving negotiations with Westinghouse owner Toshiba over a contract settlement and the federal government over loan guarantees, majority owner of the project, Georgia Power, send periodic reminders out: The workers at the site were chugging along, business as usual. They may have been looking over their shoulders quite a bit, especially when project owners in South Carolina at a similar Westinghouse-dominated project opted to pull the plug with their two-reactor expansion project only halfway towards completion. 

Georgia Power, along with the other Plant  Vogtle project owners Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities, perhaps heroically, went the other way. Recent news includes an early payment of the $3.2 billion that Toshiba and the owners agreed would allow Toshiba to get clear of the project and a large increase in Department of Energy loan guarantees. 

Here's the 2017 wrap up, compliments of the project owners. And a video clip to help put the year into perspective:

  • February – The energization of the Unit 4 switchyard. Once the new units are online, the switchyard takes energy from the plant and feeds it onto the power grid to serve customers across the state. 
  • March – Westinghouse, the primary contractor for the Vogtle nuclear expansion and designer of the AP1000 technology being used for the new units, files for bankruptcy. Georgia Power and the other co-owners were prepared for this possibility and immediately put an interim assessment agreement (IAA) in place that allowed work to continue at the site. The IAA remained in place throughout the summer, keeping thousands of workers engaged and construction moving forward. At the construction site, 19 new operators pass the initial licensing exam by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Once operational, the new units will employ approximately 75 highly trained nuclear operators as part of a permanent workforce of more than 800.
  • May – A new service agreement that allows for the transition of project management from Westinghouse to Southern Nuclear (the Southern Company subsidiary which operates the existing units at Plant Vogtle) and Georgia Power is announced.
  • June – Georgia Power enters a new agreement with Toshiba, the parent company of Westinghouse, affirming the value of Toshiba's guarantee at $3.68 billion. Parent guarantees were put in place to protect Georgia electric customers as part of the original contract for the project.
  • July – The service agreement is finalized with Westinghouse which allows Southern Nuclear to oversee construction activities at the site. The scope of the service agreement includes engineering, procurement and licensing support from Westinghouse, as well as access to Westinghouse intellectual property needed for the project. 
  • August – The first steam generator is placed for Vogtle Unit 3. The 1.4 million-pound steam generator marked the first major lift with Southern Nuclear in charge of oversight activities at the construction site. On August 31, Georgia Power filed a recommendation, supported by all of the other co-owners, to continue construction of the Vogtle project with the Georgia PSC. The recommendation was based on the results of a comprehensive schedule, cost-to-complete and cancellation assessment. 
  • September – Georgia Power announces a new agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for a conditional commitment of approximately $1.67 billion in additional loan guarantees.  With a total of more than $5 billion in anticipated DOE loan guarantees, Georgia Power expects to be able to provide more than $500 million in present-value benefits to its customers. Major milestones at the construction site include the placement of the deaerator for Unit 4 and the Unit 3 steam generator.
  • October – Georgia Power receives the first parent guarantee payment from Toshiba in the amount of $137 million. This payment was a positive indication of Toshiba's commitment to meeting its financial obligation to the company and customers. Major milestones at the construction site include a critical concrete 'super placement,' lasting 71 hours, for Unit 3 and the lift of the 237-ton CA03 module for Unit 4.
  • November – Paul Bowers, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power, appears with the other co-owner CEOs at the Georgia PSC in support of the unified recommendation to move forward. Read Bowers' comments here. At the construction site, the last of the "Big 6" modules, the 52-ton CA02 module for Unit 4 is placed.
  • December – Georgia Power announces a new agreement with Toshiba to receive all remaining scheduled payments from Toshiba in the amount of approximately $3.2 billion by Dec. 15, 2017. Georgia Power's proportionate share of the payments is approximately $1.47 billion with every dollar to be used to benefit customers. Receiving 100 percent of the funds owed by Toshiba will eliminate one of the greatest risks for continuing construction of the Vogtle project. 

Here's the clip: