Vogtle Expansion Cost Jumps Again; In-Service Dates Set for 2023

Southern Co. on July 28 increased its cost estimate for Georgia Power’s share of the two-unit expansion of the Vogtle nuclear plant.

Southern, during an investor presentation of the company’s second-quarter financial results, said Georgia Power’s share of capital costs for the project has risen by $52 million, to about $10.5 billion in total. Georgia Power, the largest of four utilities owned by Southern Co., owns 45.7% of the project. The construction of Units 3 and 4 at Vogtle is years behind schedule, and the project’s price tag has ballooned to more than $30 billion, according to energy industry analysts.

The Vogtle expansion is adding two 1,117-MW Westinghouse AP1000 reactors to two existing units at the site in Waynesboro, Georgia. The project, when initially approved in 2009, was expected to cost about $14 billion, with the new reactors coming online in 2016 and 2017. Myriad issues have contributed to delays for the project, including the bankruptcy of Westinghouse and the coronavirus pandemic.

Southern Co. on Thursday said it now expects Unit 3 to enter service in the first quarter of next year, with Unit 4 following in fourth quarter of 2023. The reactors are the only large-scale nuclear power units under construction in the U.S.

“We’re excited about the progress that we’ve seen at the site over the last several months and look forward to the transition of Unit 3 from construction to operations in the weeks ahead,” said Tom Fanning, Southern Co.’s CEO, during the presentation. “We continue to add resources on site for this work, and we have a plan for transitioning electrical field engineers from Unit 3 as we continue our focus on increasing productivity and ensuring first quality first times to support the upcoming testing and long-term operations.”

Fanning said workers “will be focusing on testing and surveillance, demobilization, finishing work and documentation” over the next few weeks. “To support an in-service date [for Unit 3] at the end of the first quarter of 2023, we will need to complete this work and load fuel by the end of October,” he said. As for Unit 4, Fanning said, “Direct construction is now approximately 96% complete and progress continues in advance of cold hydro testing and hot functional testing.”

Oglethorpe Power Corp. and Dalton Utilities—two of the other companies involved in the project—have recently said they want to freeze their capital outlays for the expansion. Oglethorpe at present owns 30% of the project; Dalton owns just 1.6%. It’s expected that the two groups’ ownership stakes will be redetermined depending on the final cost to complete construction.

The Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, with a 22.7% stake, is the other owner of the project.

Units 1 and 2 at Vogtle, with total power generation capacity of 2.4 GW, have operated since 1987 and 1989, respectively.

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

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