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Plant Vogtle expansion hits completion delay

Georgia Power reported Friday the discovery of a malfunctioning coolant pump at the second of two new nuclear reactors being built at Plant Vogtle, forcing a delay in the completion of the unit.

The news came one day after the Atlantabased utility announced it has settled a lawsuit with Oglethorpe Power Corp., one of Georgia Power’s three minority partners on the nuclear expansion underway at the plant south of Augusta.

The problem in one of the reactor’s four pumps was found during pre-operational testing and startup of the unit, which had been expected to go into service as soon as soon as the fourth quarter of this year. Instead, the reactor now is forecast to begin operations in the first quarter of 2024.

The first of the new reactors went into service at the end of July, seven years after originally scheduled and at more than double the original cost estimate.

The problem with the coolant pump was an “isolated event,” Georgia Power wrote in a report filed Friday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The company has a replacement on hand and is working to replace the malfunctioning pump.

Meanwhile, the settlement announced on Thursday calls for Georgia Power to pay Oglethorpe Power $413 million associated with cost overruns on the project, including $308 million in construction costs previously incurred and $105 million in projected capital expenses.

Oglethorpe sued Georgia Power in June of last year, declaring at the time it was exercising an option agreed to by all four project co-owners in 2018 by capping what it was willing to pay for the project.

Under the 2018 agreement, Oglethorpe announced it would reduce its share of ownership in the nuclear expansion from 30% to 28% in exchange for Georgia Power paying 100% of Oglethorpe’s remaining share of construction costs.

However, Oglethorpe has agreed in the new settlement to keep its 30% ownership share and drop the litigation.

“Oglethorpe Power and our members are experiencing growth on our system, so there’s great value in keeping our full Vogtle capacity, especially at a significantly reduced cost,” said Heather Teilhet, Oglethorpe’s senior vice president of external affairs.“ We are pleased to have reached a settlement with Oglethorpe Power in this matter, and that Oglethorpe Power will retain its full ownership interest in these new units,” Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins added. “We continue to work constructively with all our partners to complete the Vogtle expansion, bringing clean and reliable energy to Georgia.”

Georgia Power’s other partners in the project are the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG) and Dalton Utilities.

The new reactors at Plant Vogtle – units 3 and 4 – are joining units 1 and 2, which were built in the 1980s.

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