The nuclear expansion project at Plant Vogtle near Augusta appears headed for further delay and it could result in higher electric bills for ratepayers.
The state’s independent construction monitor, William Jacobs, said last month he expects the two new reactors to take longer to build than Georgia Power’s current projections.
“(State staff) and (I) believe that the (completion dates) will be further delayed. At this time…it is impossible to determine a reasonable forecast range as to when the (twin reactors) could be commercially available,” testified Jacobs.
Jacobs is scheduled to appear Tuesday before the PSC to field questions about his November testimony (pdf). The PSC holds hearings every six months to review and sign off on project costs. Commissioners approved the last round of spending in August.
Georgia Power and its partners officially began construction on the project in February 2012. Since then, the project has been plagued with issues, including generally poor performance by contractors, workers installing the wrong type of rebar under the reactor bases, and a transit mishap while moving a 300-ton steel reactor vessel. As a result, Georgia Power was forced to push back the completion dates for the two reactors by 21 months. The updated schedule has the first reactor coming online in December 2017 and the second reactor up and running the following December.
Despite Jacobs’ contention of further delay, Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins maintains the project remains on course.
“The schedule challenges are not something that is unanticipated. We knew this could be a possibility and certainly the independent construction monitor’s opinion that the dates could be extended could be a reality so we look forward to discussing it with the Public Service Commission,” said Hawkins.
For Georgia Power’s latest construction and spending report, which covers the period between January 1, 2014 to June 30, 2014, click here (pdf).
State analysts estimate each day of delay raises the project’s price tag by about $2 million. Georgia Power ultimately can ask the PSC to pass any extra costs onto ratepayers. However, Georgia Power and the PSC agreed last year to table all requests for additional construction spending until the first reactor comes online. The agreement was reached after Georgia Power asked for an extra $737 million. At the time, several state officials, including Gov. Nathan Deal, expressed concern about passing those costs onto ratepayers.
Original Certified Project Cost: $14 billion. Georgia Power’s stake is 45.7 percent, or $6.1 billion. Three other Georgia utilities - Oglethorpe Power (30 percent), the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (22.7 percent), and Dalton Utilities (1.6 percent) – are project partners.
Current Estimated Project Cost: $15.5 billion. Georgia Power’s share has risen to $6.7 billion, or $591 million above its originally certified amount.
Unresolved Additional Costs:
- Lawsuit between Georgia Power and its contractors – Westinghouse and CB&I (formerly The Shaw Group) – over costs related to federal licensing delays. Disputed amount is more than $900 million.
- Construction issues requiring more than 300 days of additional work, according to William Jacobs. Using the state’s $2 million per day estimate, the amount could be more than $600 million.