Georgia Power Company said in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on 19 March that the planned November start up of unit 3 at the Vogtle NPP in Georgia could be delayed by at least a month. Georgia Power said that its Southern Nuclear Operating Company “had identified, and is in the process of completing, additional construction remediation work, primarily related to electrical commodity installations, necessary to ensure quality and design standards are met as system turnovers are completed prior to starting hot functional testing and fuel load for Plant Vogtle unit 3”. As a result, Georgia Power now expects the start of hot functional testing to be delayed into April.
As part of its ongoing prioritisation of safety and quality, Southern Nuclear “has existing processes designed to assure compliance with the requirements specified in the Westinghouse Electric Company Design Control Document and the combined construction and operating licences, including inspections and reviews by Southern Nuclear and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that occur throughout construction”. Considering the recent identification of additional construction remediation work, Southern Nuclear is “reviewing the project’s construction quality programmes and, where needed, implementing improvement plans consistent with these processes”. Findings resulting from such reviews and inspections “could require additional remediation”.
While Southern Nuclear continues to target a November 2021 in-service date for unit 3, “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”. Any schedule extension beyond November 2021 “is currently estimated to result in additional base capital costs for Georgia Power of approximately $25 million per month”. When the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) approved the Vogtle expansion project in 2009, the two 1,117MWe Westinghouse AP1000 reactors (units 3&4) were expected to cost about $14 billion and to begin operation in 2016 and 2017.
The $25 billion Vogtle project has faced numerous work delays and financial challenges, including the COVID-19 impact on workforce scheduling and the 2017 bankruptcy of original contractor Westinghouse. Georgia Power received the first nuclear fuel for Vogtle 3 late last year. The unit was approximately 98% complete according to the last quarterly update. Vogtle is the only nuclear plant under construction in the USA and would be the first nuclear plant completed in more than three decades.