ATLANTA — Georgia Power’s nuclear expansion at Plant Vogtle has suffered another scheduling delay, an independent expert wrote this week in testimony filed with the state Public Service Commission (PSC).
Recently discovered “construction quality” issues mean the first of two new nuclear reactors being built at the plant south of Augusta may not be completed before February 2023, according to Don Grace, vice president of engineering for the Vogtle Monitoring Group (VMG), hired by the commission’s staff to evaluate Georgia Power sister company Southern Nuclear’s ability to manage the project.
That’s three months behind Georgia Power’s current timetable calling for completion of the unit by next November.
Grace wrote the second reactor also could be delayed until February 2024 instead of being completed in November 2023.
The Vogtle expansion was originally projected to be finished in 2016 and 2017. But the project has been plagued with a series of delays, first when original prime contractor Westinghouse went bankrupt, then when COVID-related workforce shortages slowed up construction.
Georgia Power has been forced to announce several delays in the timetable this year alone, driving up the cost of the project each time.
“These new forecasts represent another five months of schedule slip and another $1 billion in cost increase from previous VMG forecasts,” Grace wrote Wednesday.
The PSC, chaired by Tricia Pridemore, voted last month to let Georgia Power pass on to customers $2.1 billion of the costs of completing the first of the two new reactors. That will raise the average residential customer’s bill by $3.78 a month.
But the Atlanta-based utility will not be allowed to start recovering that money until one month after the unit goes into commercial operation.
The project was projected to cost Georgia Power and three utility partners $14 billion when the PSC approved it in 2009, but the price tag has soared to at least $26 billion.
Georgia Power officials have argued some cost increases were to be expected since the Vogtle expansion is the first new nuclear project to be built in the United States in 30 years.