Plant Vogtle, the only nuclear power plant under construction in the country in Waynesboro, Georgia, is reducing its workforce by about 20%, or roughly 1,800 employees, to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Georgia Power’s parent company, Southern Company, announced the news Thursday.
Forty-two workers at the site of the two new nuclear reactors, Vogtle 3 and 4, have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. Fifty-seven tests are pending, and 154 people working there have tested negative. In February, the company had 9,000 employees on the site.
In its release, Georgia Power said the reduction would limit the effects of the virus, “including ongoing challenges with labor productivity that have been exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19.”
Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said the company has had issues with “absenteeism” as people chose to stay home because of fears from the virus.
“A number of our workers are already personally choosing to stay off the site due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “The project management has asked for an approximate 20% reduction to the craft workforce through a self-selection process. So that mitigating action is expected to help increase the workforce productivity and reduce absenteeism. It’s also intended to help lessen the impact of COVID-19 on the workforce by allowing for increased social distancing and further facilitating the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
“Above all else, the safety and well-being of our workforce is our top priority,” he said.
The company has instituted social-distancing measures at the job site, including: closing the cafeteria, adjusting break schedules, adding more portable bathrooms and hand-washing stations, increasing cleaning schedules, suspending on-site mass shuttle buses and limiting tool and material pickup to one employee at a time. It has also expanded the site’s medical clinic.
In its filing, the company said this action would cost about $15 million to $30 million, but it doesn’t expect the reduction will “affect the total project capital cost forecast or the ability to achieve the regulatory-approved in-service dates of November 2021 and November 2022 for Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4, respectively.”
Plant Vogtle’s expansion has been underway since 2009. The total cost of the project is projected to be more than $25 billion.