The suit filed Thursday in a federal court in Washington is the third between the parties over the construction of Plant Vogtle near Augusta. It is the first nuclear plant in a generation to win approval to build from scratch.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the firms designing and building the plant — Westinghouse Electric Co. and the Shaw Group — want more compensation for additional design work that was necessary before the reactor could be approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. They also want compensation for what they call the owner’s failure to get a key construction license before July 1, 2012.
Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power owns a nearly 46 percent stake in the new plant and oversees the project on behalf of co-owners Oglethorpe Power Corp., the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Dalton Utilities. Georgia Power has previously said the contractors wanted $425 million as its share of the extra costs, though the utility denies any responsibility for those charges.
“After extensive efforts to reach a settlement with the contractors, we have been unable to arrive at an agreement,” Georgia Power spokesman Mark Williams said in a statement. “Georgia Power has not agreed with the amount of these proposed adjustments or that the owners have responsibility for any costs or schedule delays related to these issues.”
Under state law, Georgia Power’s customers are ultimately responsible for paying that utility’s estimated $6.1 billion share of the $14 billion project. Georgia’s Public Service Commission regulates Georgia Power and must approve construction costs before they can be passed along to customers.
Opponents of the nuclear plant said they are concerned that if Georgia Power loses the lawsuit, the extra costs will be borne by the public.
“Even if they got this settled, we would find it hard to believe that Georgia Power wouldn’t be on the hook for some of the costs,” said Sara Barczak, the high-risk energy director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “To see that their mediation and whatever else they were doing did not work so early in the project is a big red flag.”