By Tamar Hallerman
2/17/2022 Southern Company, the electric utility overseeing the beleaguered Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion near Augusta, said Thursday that the project is being delayed once again as costs continue to climb.
That raises the possibility the company’s roughly 2.6 million Georgia Power customers, already on the hook for billions of dollars, will pay even more to finance the first big nuclear project in the U.S. in decades. The project is already several years late and billions over budget.
Atlanta-based Southern, the parent of Georgia Power, disclosed Thursday a $920 million financial charge in the fourth quarter of 2021 related to Vogtle. It also pushed back the startup dates for its two new nuclear units in Georgia by three to six months.
The plant’s new Unit 3 is now slated to come online between December 2022 and March 2023. Unit 4 is scheduled to be operational between September 2023 and December 2023.
Southern partially attributed the latest delay toincomplete and missing inspection records, which are required for the plant to load nuclear fuel. It said it reduced the backlog by more than 30% in recent weeks as it works its way through tens of thousands of records for materials and equipment installed in the first of its two new units.
By Matt Kempner
12/31/21: Early in 2021, crews at Georgia Power’s nuclear expansion site at Plant Vogtle were struggling to find all the leaks in a pool built to hold spent, highly radioactive fuel.
They added air pressure under the floor of the water-filled pool, hoping air bubbles would pinpoint flawed welds. It didn’t work. So an engineer doubled the air pressure.
The result: The pool’s steel floor plates were damaged, rendering them unusable. New ones had to be manufactured. The fixes and rechecks of the pool have taken nearly a year and cost millions of dollars.
It’s been that kind of a year at Plant Vogtle. Though the expansion project was supposed to be close to completion, a series of missteps and botched jobs in recent months has led to more cost overruns, further delays and fresh worries about quality and oversight.
The project has had setbacks almost since it began. But the 2021 revelations highlight how widespread the problems have become.
by J. Scott Truby
ATLANTA 3/8/18: Consumer group Georgia Watch filed a legal challenge to the December decision by the Georgia Public Service Commission to allow Georgia Power and partners to complete two unfinished nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in east Georgia.
In a petition filed in Fulton County Superior Court, Georgia Watch alleges the unanimous decision by the utilities regulator benefits shareholders of Georgia Power, a subsidiary of publicly traded Southern Company, over Georgia ratepayers.
The decision was finalized in January.
The challenge is at least the second filed against the PSC by consumer groups in recent weeks. A trio of advocacy groups challenged the PSC’s decision on Georgia Power’s new cost estimates, alleging commissioners violated state laws and the commission’s own rules approving spending that would nearly double the estimated costs of the project.
Georgia Watch alleges commissioners violated the law by “[communicating] with Georgia Power behind closed doors in the days leading up to the final decision without notifying other parties or giving them an opportunity to respond to the substance of the communications.”
“The Commission’s decision puts nearly all of the higher cost burden and risks of further cost increases on the backs of Georgia consumers,” Georgia Watch Executive Director Liz Coyle said in a news release. “Incredibly, Georgia Power will actually earn billions in extra profit while their customers foot the bill for the mismanaged project.”
The law group of former Gov. Roy Barnes is representing Georgia Watch on a pro bono basis.
by Jill Nolan
DALTON 2/23/18: A proposal to let local governments borrow money for electric utility projects without a public vote has run into resistance at the state Capitol.
The statewide bill is essentially tailored for Dalton Utilities, which owns 1.6 percent of the costly Plant Vogtle expansion project. The utility wants state lawmakers to eliminate a public referendum that is currently required before they can issue bonds for electric system-related projects.
Dalton Utilities’ chief executive officer, Tom Bundros, told lawmakers Friday that the utility does not need to borrow money to cover its share of the cost to finish two new nuclear reactors at Vogtle near Waynesboro. That project is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.
Bundros said the utility’s share, which is expected to run another $80 million, would come from “internally generated cash flow.” He also said the utility does not anticipate the need to borrow money for the next five years.
“Well, if you don’t want to borrow any more money, why do you need this?” said Rep. Penny Houston, R-Nashville.
by Kristi Swartz
ATLANTA 2/16/18 — A Georgia Senate panel swiftly passed a bill that ends a controversial financing law for nuclear power plants but leaves Georgia Power Co.’s Plant Vogtle expansion project alone.
The measure is a pared-down version of a bill (S.B. 355) that would limit how much Georgia Power could profit from Vogtle, whose reactors are years behind schedule and billions of dollars above their original forecast budget. Georgia Power — known for its political muscle at the Capitol — did not oppose the new version passed yesterday.
Consumer advocates also did not testify but said after the meeting they hoped this measure would open the door for future inquiries by the Legislature.
“We remain hopeful that the Legislature will continue to look at the issues, and as they dig deeper, they will realize that we need to do something more,” Liz Coyle, executive director of Georgia Watch, said in an interview after yesterday’s Georgia Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee hearing. “At least we can say that something has gotten done where the Legislature is acknowledging that we can’t just keep this going unchecked.”
by Anastaciah Ondieki
ATLANTA 2/16/18: A newly proposed Senate Bill that would have limited charges on Georgia Power customer bills for the Vogtle nuclear expansion project has been amended, to apply only to future nuclear projects.
The amended version of Senate Bill 355, which received unanimous support from members of the Regulated Industries and Utilities committee Thursday, will target projects commissioned after January 1, 2018.
The bill, introduced by Rome Republican lawmaker Chuck Hufstetler also requires Georgia Power and other utility companies to seek prior authorization from Congress before pursuing new nuclear projects.
Hufstetler said Vogtle was not included in the bill as there would be no support to see it through the legislature.
He however said his decision to seek consumer protections for ratepayers stems from recent efforts by Georgia Power to seek a location for a new nuclear site in Stewart County.
The bill is now headed to the Senate Rules Committee.
“At least we can say something has gotten done with the legislators acknowledging we can’t let this keep going unchecked,” said Liz Coyle, the Executive Director of Georgia Watch.
by Anne Maxwell
WAYNESBORO, Ga. 5/8/17: The construction of two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle is years behind schedule and billions over budget. Last month, the contractor, Westinghouse Electric, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Plant Vogtle employees hundreds of people in Burke County and the temporary contract with Westinghouse expires Friday, which means the project’s future after that is up in the air.
An attorney for Georgia Power, which is one of the main owners of Plant Vogtle, has said all options are on the table. They could totally shut down the project, or build only one of the two reactors they are currently constructing. There has also been talk of converting it to a natural gas plant, but it is not clear whether that would be economical. Or they could continue building despite even higher costs.
But no matter what happens, Georgia Power is still going to make a profit.
by Russell Grantham
ATLANTA 3/30/17: A day after its key contractor filed bankruptcy, Georgia Power said Thursday it is looking at all options for what to do with its unfinished Plant Vogtle nuclear project.
“Every option is on the table,” Georgia Power attorney Kevin Green told members of the Georgia Public Service Commission, which regulates the Atlanta-based utility.
Westinghouse Electric, which is supplying the reactors and overseeing construction of two new reactors at Plant Vogtle near Augusta, filed for Chapter 11 Wednesday, largely as a result of billions in losses on the Vogtle project and another in South Carolina.
by Gloria Tatum
(APN) ATLANTA 2/17/16 — A pro-consumer bill, HB 931, co-sponsored by State Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale), calls for an end to the Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery (NCCR) surcharge on Georgia Power electric bills after March 2017.
NCCR is a statewide surcharge that all Georgia Power residential and small business electricity customers pay every month.
It is about eight percent of one’s total bill with additional periodic rate increases.
Georgia Power’s two new nuclear reactors, Vogtle 3 and 4, originally were scheduled for completion in 2017, and at that time the surcharge was to expire.
However, Georgia Power is over three years behind schedule, and almost three billion dollars over-budget, with only 26 percent of the construction complete.