Georgia Power said Wednesday that the anticipated time line for construction at the Plant Vogtle expansion project in near Waynesboro, Ga., had not changed, but that costs of the projects had gone up since the company took over management of the construction site from once-bankrupt Westinghouse Electric Company.
The company said "significant progress" had been made since it assumed project management on behalf of its owners, which includes Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities. But based on revised cost-to-complete estimates from parent company Southern Nuclear, "capital and construction costs forecast for its share of the project ... increased from $7.3 billion to $8.4 billion," according to a statement.
The company estimated completion dates are "still expected" in November 2021 for Unit 3 and November 2022 for Unit 4, which represent the only two domestic reactor projects currently underway in the United States.
There are more than 7,000 workers onsite with major milestones in the past two months including a major concrete placement lasting more than eight continuous hours inside the Unit 3 shield building and the placement of a 52,000-pound Q233 piping module for Unit 4. Georgia power called the module "a critical piece of the overall passive core cooling system.
"Significant progress has been made on the construction of Vogtle 3 and 4 since the transition to Southern Nuclear following the Westinghouse bankruptcy," said Georgia Power Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Bowers. "While there will always be challenges in building the first new nuclear units in this country in more than 30 years, we remain focused on reducing project risk and maintaining the current momentum in order to provide our customers with a new carbon-free energy source that will put downward pressure on rates for 60 to 80 years," he said.
To maintain focus and momentum, project leadership made a series of critical decisions including providing craft labor incentives to both attract and retain adequate staffing levels and increased supervision in the field, including engineering oversight. These decisions have contributed to the added costs, the company said. However, while the revised costs include about $700 million, the company said it would absorb that expense so it would have "no impact on customer bills."The company said the costs were "reasonable, necessary and prudent," which are general guidelines for approaching the regional regular the Georgia Public Service Commission for handing those expenses over to consumers. However, Georgia Power said it would absorb the costs rather than ask to pass them along "so soon after receiving the Georgia PSC's approval of the capital forecast last year."
"Additionally (however), based on the latest estimates, the previous contingency for the project has been determined to be insufficient to fully offset forecast cost increases resulting in an increased contingency of approximately $400 million." The company said that amount "may be presented" to the PSC of Georgia "when appropriate in the future."
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Love these 'forward looking' utility execs in the Vogtle project for keeping the promise of the US nuclear industry alive. Let's just hope that the cost escalation doesn't make them run for cover. Having worked in the industry for over 30 years, both in construction and operation, nuclear is the clear path forward for our energy future. Now, if we could only get the bureaucrats at the NRC out of the way...........