Georgia Power is cutting nearly 2000 workers from the Vogtle nuclear expansion project in the USA in face of growing absenteeism due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 20% reduction in the project’s 9000-person workforce was announced in a regulatory filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission by Southern Company on 16 April.

Southern said the Vogtle workforce reduction, which is expected to last into the summer, is aimed at addressing “ongoing challenges with labour productivity that have been exacerbated by the impact of Covid-19”.

It is expected to provide operational efficiencies by increasing productivity of the remaining workforce and reducing workforce fatigue and absenteeism. It is also expected to allow for increased social distancing.

Southern said the measures would cost about $15m to $30m, but it did not expect the reduction to affect the total project capital cost forecast or the ability to achieve the regulatory-approved in-service dates of November 2021 for Vogtle 3 and November 2022 for Vogtle 4. The two Westinghouse AP1000 units, each with a capacity of 1117MWe, are being built at the existing Vogtle site.

The Vogtle expansion project is approximately 84% complete. However, its is already years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget as a result of numerous problems that pre-dated the pandemic.