Georgia Power, Southern Nuclear: Remediation work may delay Vogtle Unit 3 testing, startup

Georgia and parent company Southern Co.’s nuclear operations wing are delaying hot functional testing for nearly completed Unit 3 at the Vogtle Nuclear Plant expansion project.

Additional construction remediation work needs to be finished in advance of hot functional testing and fuel load for Unit 3, Southern reported in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Georgia Power now expects the testing will be done in April.

The $25 billion construction project, the first new nuclear capacity being built in several years, has endured numerous work delays and financial challenges, including the COVID-19 impact on workforce scheduling and the 2017 bankruptcy of original contractor Westinghouse. Southern Nuclear, however, still hopes to have Unit 3 operational by November with Unit 4 online by the same period in 2022.

The construction remediation work, related to electrical equipment installations, could push the Unit 3 start back, although project leaders could not say when.

“The schedule is challenged and, after considering the factors above, a delay is likely and could add one month or more to the Unit 3 in-service date,” read Southern’s filing with the SEC. “Any schedule extension beyond November 2021 for Unit 3 is currently estimated to result in additional base capital costs for Georgia Power of approximately $25 million per month.”

Georgia Power received the first nuclear fuel for Vogtle Unit 3 late last year.  Crews at Unit 4 began water and coolant system testing earlier this year.

Once completed, Vogtle’s expansion would offer the first new nuclear capacity brought online since Tennessee Valley Authority completed Watts Bar Unit 2 in 2016. Prior to that, no new nuclear projects were made operational in several decades.

Nuclear energy accounts for close to 20 percent of the U.S. electricity generation mix and is the largest carbon-free resource in the portfolio.

Once operational, Vogtle Units 3 and 4 can provide enough electricity to power more than 500,000 homes and businesses. Georgia Power is lead owner in a group including Dalton Power, Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Oglethorpe Power.

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