Costs rise on Vogtle nuclear expansion and in-service dates delayed to 2022, 2023

Georgia Power reported Thursday that its Vogtle 3 and 4 expansion project has endured delays that will push the projected in-service dates of both units back by close to a year.

The lead utility on the nation’s only nuclear construction work also said its portion of the capital cost could rise to more than $9 billion. This is above the $7.3 billion last approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission.

Recent estimates put the overall tab on the massive two-unit addition at close to $28 billion. At one point only a few years ago, some utility customers tied to the Vogtle expansion asked that it be dropped as too expensive.

Work on Vogtle units 3 and 4 in Georgia continues, however, as both units are near completion and entering testing phases. The previous estimate was for commissioning this year and next, but Georgia Power revised those in-service dates to the second quarter 2022 for Unit 3 and first quarter 2023 for Unit 4.

“We knew building the first new nuclear units in the U.S. (in many years) would be challenging,” Chris Womack, CEO of Georgia Power, said in a statement. “The project has endured extraordinary circumstances during construction, including the pandemic as the most recent. Through these challenges, we have learned a great deal. Unit 3 hot functional testing has now been successfully completed with no significant issues identified, which is a critical step toward completion.”

Work on Vogtle units 3 and 4 began in 2015. Two years later, the original contractor Westinghouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, so Bechtel was brought in to lead construction efforts to the finish line. Southern Nuclear took oversight duties from Westinghouse.

Both Vogtle units will have Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at the center. Each of the units are designed to generate about 1,000 MW at capacity and together will power close to 500,000 customers.

Unit 3 direct construction is now 99 percent complete, with the entire project at about 93 percent complete, Georgia Power reported Thursday. The construction site now has close to 7,000 workers, with about 800 permanent jobs planned once the units begin operating.

Last month, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission revealed it was launching a special inspection into remediation work on Unit 3 related to the electrical cable raceway system.

If and when they go into service, Vogtle units 3 and 4 would be the first new U.S. nuclear generation reactors since Watts Bar 2 entered operation six years ago.

Georgia Power’s lead partners on the project include the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG), Dalton Power and Oglethorpe Power. Southern Co. is the parent of Georgia Power.

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