2018-06-13 / News

Vogtle still hitting milestones


Construction work has improved at Plant Vogtle since Southern Nuclear and Georgia Power Co. took over for bankrupt Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC, members of the Georgia Public Service Commission staff said in documents last week.

According to a report in "Energy Wire," a news organization focusing on energy and the environment, "increased productivity is critical for the Plant Vogtle reactors to meet their new cost and schedule, and just a few months of delay will again render the project uneconomical, according to testimony from the project's independent watchdog, main analyst and financial staff members."

Energy Wire reported that the PSC staff and consultants revealed the information in their biannual analysis of Vogtle's cost and schedule. The reports cover the last six months of 2017, which was when Southern Nuclear and Georgia Power were starting to fully take over at Vogtle after Westinghouse went bankrupt in March 2017.

The analysis is also the first since the PSC agreed in December to let Georgia Power finish the reactors — already years behind schedule and billions of dollars above their original forecast budget — but with some financial constraints.

Georgia Power is building Vogtle with a group of public power companies. It is now the only U.S. nuclear project under construction after electric companies in South Carolina walked away from a similar project last year.

A series of regulatory delays and vendor problems have dogged Vogtle's progress. Both reactors were supposed to be producing electricity by now had everything worked as planned when company executives pitched Vogtle to regulators roughly 10 years ago.

Construction is a little more than 50 percent finished. Work on what's now known as the "power block" — the main buildings and containment that protects the reactor — is more than 42 percent complete and slightly ahead of schedule.

Bechtel Corp. is in charge of that portion of the project. Westinghouse oversees nuclear systems engineering and design but is under the direction of Georgia Power.

Georgia Power's responsibility has increased now that it is fully responsible for the project's cost and schedule. This means the PSC staff has had to expand its level of monitoring, officials noted in testimony that was made publicly available yesterday morning.

Georgia Power has told regulators they expect to have the reactors producing power in November 2021 and 2022 — a new 29-month delay announced last year. The utility is actually working under a more ambitious schedule that would have the reactors up and running by April of those years.

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