Citizens group says latest delay is another bad sign for Vogtle nuclear plant

Now that Southern (NYSE:SO) has said that the vendors building the Vogtle Units 3 and 4 nuclear reactors expect the project will take 18 months longer than previously expected, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) contends that the delays “will further erode” the project’s benefits.

Southern and subsidiary Georgia Power said in a financial filing on Jan. 29 that its contractors have concluded that construction of the two nuclear units will take 18 months longer than previously predicted. That would push back the expected commercial operation of Vogtle Unit 3 from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the second quarter of 2019. Completion of Vogtle 4 would be expected one year after that.

SACE, a vocal critic of new nuclear plants in the Southeast, argued in a Jan. 30 with the Georgia Public Service Commission that the delay diminishes any financial upside for the nuclear project.

Georgia Power and its partners are building the facility in Waynesboro, Ga.

“When construction schedule delays run over 300 or 400 days the ability to recover or mitigate lost time is dramatically reduced,” according to the SACE filing. SACE made its filing in connection with the Georgia PSC’s 11th semi-annual construction monitoring report.

Georgia Power “should not be allowed to over-collect financing costs through the Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery (NCCR) tariff above the current certified cost of $6.113 billion,” SACE asserts.

SACE also said that the Wall Street Journal recently reported that the first Chinese nuclear reactors that also use the Westinghouse Electric AP 1000 design has been pushed back to 2016. The AP 1000 design is the same design being used at both the Vogtle 3 and 4 units being built in Georgia as well as the V.C. Summer Units 2 and 3 being built by SCANA (NYSE:SCG) in South Carolina.

The citizen group calls this “an early warning that similar problems will occur on the American projects unless the technical issues are resolved.”

SACE also argues that the absence of a final, complete “integrated project schedule” is unreasonable and imprudent. The brief was filed for SACE by its attorney, Robert Baker.

 

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.