vogtle 2018

The construction of new reactors at Plant Vogtle.

Georgia Power is putting off some of this year’s milestones in the construction schedule for the nuclear expansion at Plant Vogtle, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Atlanta-based utility expects to adjust the dates for fuel loading at Unit 3, one of two nuclear reactors being added at the plant south of Augusta, and for the start of “hot functional testing,” which measures the safety and operability of the reactors, Georgia Power announced Monday.

Georgia Power has made significant changes to work practices at the project since the coronavirus pandemic struck Georgia last March. The company laid off 20% of the project workforce last April, and the site has seen a significant increase in cases of the virus since October consistent with the broader national and regional increase.

However, Georgia Power still expects to bring Unit 3 into service this November, followed a year later by Unit 4, the second reactor.

The state Public Service Commission approved the project back in 2009 at an estimated cost of $14 billion and a schedule that called for completing the work in 2016 and 2017. However, the project has been plagued by a series of cost overruns and scheduling delays brought on in part by the bankruptcy of Westinghouse Electric, the original prime contractor.

The project’s critics are predicting that further delays and overruns will occur, based on testimony last fall from engineers monitoring the work.

Georgia Power expects to provide additional updates next month during parent Southern Co.’s quarterly earnings call.

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