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Plant Vogtle expansion encounters another delay

Georgia Power has announced another delay in the completion of the nuclear expansion at Plant Vogtle. The first of two new reactors being built at the plant south of Augusta won’t be ready to go into commercial service until the third quarter of next year, the Atlanta-based utility announced Thursday. Under the revised schedule, the second unit will be delayed until the second quarter of 2023.

In both cases, that marks an additional delay of three months for two reactors that originally were due to be completed in 2016 and 2017. Georgia Power blamed the delay on the need for additional time to deal with ongoing construction challenges and allow for the comprehensive testing necessary to ensure quality and safety standards are met.

“As we’ve said from the beginning of this project, we are going to build these units the right way, without compromising safety and quality to achieve a schedule deadline,” said Chris Womack, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power.

“We have endured and overcome some extraordinary circumstances building the first new nuclear units in the U.S. in more than 30 years. Despite these challenges, progress at the site has been steady and evident.”

The project was originally expected to cost $14 billion but has nearly doubled after years of delays and cost overruns. A key factor driving up the cost was the bankruptcy of prime contractor Westinghouse and its replacement by Southern Nuclear, like Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Co. The most recent delay Georgia Power announced back in July drove up the capital cost of the project by $460 million.

The state Public Service Commission is scheduled to vote early next month on how much of the mounting costs for the first of the new reactors the utility will be allowed to pass on to customers.

A tentative agreement announced last week would let Georgia Power pass on an additional $2.1 billion. However, the utility would not be permitted to start recovering those costs until one month after that first reactor goes into commercial operation. Between them, the two reactors once in service will power more than 500,000 Georgia homes and businesses. With more than 7,000 workers on the site, the Plant Vogtle expansion is the largest construction project in the state.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

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