Ahead of a crucial report later this month on what it would cost to finish two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, officials with Georgia Power’s parent company gave preliminary numbers that show it could take a couple more years and could cost up to $1.7 billion more to complete the project.
While the company will make a recommendation on whether to proceed to the Georgia Public Service Commission, the decision may hinge not just on economics, but the importance of that energy source to the state of Georgia, officials said.
Southern Co. gave an update on Vogtle Units 3 and 4 under construction at the site in Waynesboro as part of its second quarter earnings report. As of May, the project is 66 percent complete overall, with almost all of the engineering and most of the procurement done, and construction at 44 percent complete. Southern Nuclear, which had been a presence at the site from the beginning, recently assumed oversight from contractor Westinghouse, and will “maintain momentum” on construction as officials prepare a final report on the estimated costs and schedule for completion, and a recommendation on whether to proceed, Southern CEO Thomas Fanning said. The recommendation is due to the PSC by Aug. 31.
The report presented preliminary cost ranges and schedules for proceeding or abandoning the project. If work goes forward, the completion of Unit 3 would now go from June 2019 to sometime between February 2021 and March 2022, according to the schedule. The prospects of bringing Unit 4 online would go from June 2020 to somewhere between February 2022 and March 2023.
The cost to Georgia Power would increase anywhere from $1 billion to $1.7 billion, raising the company’s commitment for its 45 percent share of the project from $5.7 billion to anywhere from $6.7 billion to $7.4 billion. The company projected it would cost $400 million to cancel the project.
After the company makes its report to the commission, a final decision on whether to proceed is expected by the end of the year, according to commission chairman Stan Wise.
While the economics should make sense for the decision, there is also where the project fits in terms of the state’s desire to have a diversity of fuel sources in its overall energy plan, Fanning said. For Georgia, “nuclear is important,” he said.
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