Southern Co. said in a regulatory filing on Jan. 30 that its two-unit expansion at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia may be delayed another 18 months, with its costs expected to rise at least $720 million.
The company was informed of the delays by Westinghouse and CB&I, which are supplying and building the two new AP1000 reactors. Southern said it has not accepted the revised schedule and said it may press the firms to accelerate construction.
In the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Southern Co. warned that “ongoing challenges with the Contractor’s performance including additional challenges in its fabrication, assembly, delivery, and installation of the shield building and structural modules” could lead to even more delays and added costs.
Originally expected to come online in 2016 when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave the go-ahead for construction and operation in 2012, the project has experienced repeated delays that have now pushed back the startup date to mid-2019 for Unit 3 and mid-2020 for Unit 4.
Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power owns 46% of the project. Its costs were originally estimated at $6.1 billion but have grown to $7.4 billion with the delays and overruns. Other owners are Oglethorpe Power Corp. (30%), Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (22.7%), and the Dalton Utilities (1.6%).
The problems are an increasing black eye for a project that was intended to show that new licensing, design, and construction approaches would avoid the problems encountered with previous reactors, where costs often ballooned far beyond initial estimates.
Southern Co., Westinghouse, and CB&I are already involved in litigation over previous delays and increased costs. In the filing, Southern Co. said it believes it is protected from cost overruns by provisions in the construction contract and that it is entitled to recover liquidated damages from Westinghouse and CB&I for any delays.
—Thomas W. Overton, JD is a POWER associate editor (@thomas_overton, @POWERmagazine).