Georgia Power on 29 July announced a revised schedule and cost forecast for units 3 & 4 at the nuclear expansion project, resulting from productivity challenges and additional time needed for testing and quality assurance. Georgia Public Service Commission (GPSC) in 2009 approved the Vogtle expansion project, including construction of two 1,117MWe Westinghouse AP1000 reactors which were expected to begin operation in 2016 and 2017. The estimated cost of the project was then put at $14 billion. However, recent estimates now put the overall cost at close to $28bn.
The project has faced numerous delays and financial challenges over the years, not least the bankruptcy filing by Westinghouse in 2017.
The company currently projects a unit 3 in-service date in the second quarter of 2022 and a unit 4 in-service date in the first quarter of 2023, a delay of three or four months for each unit. The company has also revised the total project capital cost forecast to reflect this updated schedule – resulting in a $460 million increase to Georgia Power.
Georgia Power's share of the total project capital cost forecast is now $9.2 billion, although the company has not sought approval of any capital costs above the $7.3 billion previously approved by GPSC. Additionally, there are special protections in place for customers during construction, including a reduction in the company's return on investment for the project. Every month of delay in the project equates to an incrementally lower return, which translates to lower bill impacts during construction. For future, final cost recovery, an open and transparent prudency review is planned near the completion of unit 4.
"Georgia Power is focused on safety and quality as we complete this project," said Chris Womack, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power. "Vogtle 3 & 4 remains a critical investment for the state to provide low-cost, reliable and emissions-free electricity for the state of Georgia for 60 to 80 years. This is too important to our customers, our state and our nation for us not to get it right, and we will."
He added: "We knew building the first new nuclear units in the US in more than 30 years would be challenging. 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." With the completion of the testing, unit 3 direct construction is now 99% complete, with the total Vogtle 3 & 4 expansion project approximately 93% complete.