Testing Problems Push Vogtle Start to 2022

Southern Co. has moved the startup date for the first unit of its two-reactor expansion at the Vogtle nuclear power plant to the first quarter of 2022, citing problems found during testing. The company on May 18 notified Georgia state regulators of the delay. Analysts with Mizuho Group, an investment banking company, on May 21 said Southern interrupted “hot functional testing” of Unit 3 at Vogtle due to vibration of the plant’s pressurizer.

Executives with Southern Nuclear, the nuclear arm of Southern Co., and local utility and Southern subsidiary Georgia Power told the Georgia Public Service Commission they now are planning for the first of the two new 1,100-MW AP1000 reactors to enter operation at some point in the first three months of 2022.

Southern just two months ago announced a delay in testing of Unit 3, but at that time said the project remained on track for a November 2021 startup. One month later, though, Southern Co. CEO Tom Fanning said startup would be pushed to late December. Unit 4, the second of the two new reactors, remains on schedule to enter operation in November 2022, according to the company.

Fanning in a late April call with analysts had said the project could experience more delays, but also said he expected the expansion had a “clearer path” to completion. 

The Vogtle project, the only major nuclear power construction project in the U.S., was originally scheduled to come online in 2016. The two-unit expansion at the site in Waynesboro, Georgia, has been dogged by numerous delays and cost overruns, with the project’s projected estimated cost of about $14 billion now pegged at twice that figure.

State regulators approved the expansion in 2009, and construction of the two new units began in 2013.

Darrell Proctor is associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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