Southern Company: ‘Weeks’ before we’ll know cost of Plant Vogtle


A Southern Co. executive told state regulators it could be up to “several weeks” before the Atlanta utility knows how much it will cost to complete the troubled Plant Vogtle expansion — or even if it will.

Since the late-March bankruptcy of the project’s key contractor, Westinghouse Electric, Southern subsidiary Georgia Power has been spending about $50 million a month under an interim agreement with the contractor to keep work going at the plant near Augusta.

The interim deal expires Friday, but David McKinney, Southern’s vice president of nuclear development, told the Georgia Public Service Commission at a hearing Thursday that he was “not ready to say today” if it will be extended.

“You may see that interim agreement extended,” said McKinney.

He said Southern and Georgia Power are still evaluating what to do, including whether to abandon the project, and how much it will cost to finish the Vogtle expansion.

The hearing was on Georgia Power’s progress on the Vogtle expansion in the last half of 2016, when it spent $222 million on the project.

An army of about 6,000 workers is building two new reactors at Vogtle, but the job is well over $3 billion over budget and more than three years behind schedule.

Georgia Power officials said the project slipped at least four months farther behind schedule in the second half of 2016, and has fallen farther behind this year.

Partly because of Westinghouse’s bankruptcy, the utility’s executives told the PSC they no longer expect to be able to finish the reactors by the end of 2020 — the latest deadline set last year under a settlement between the agency and Georgia Power.

The project is being bankrolled by more than $8 billion in federal loans and loan guarantees, as well as nearly $2 billion paid through “financing” surcharges that add about $100 a year to residential customers’ bills.

Critics used Thursday’s hearing to express their anger over Vogtle’s costly troubles. Several urged the PSC to pull the plug on the project, arguing the units aren’t needed because electricity demand in Georgia hasn’t grown over the past decade.

“I am angry,” said Atlanta resident Barbara Antonoplos. She said it’s “absurd” that the PSC says it didn’t see Westinghouse’s bankruptcy coming.

In the recent settlement a few months before Westinghouse’s bankruptcy, she added, the PSC “approved as prudent every penny of the billions that have been spent” on Vogtle, and even more for future spending.

“No one now can deny that this is a very big mess,” said Robert Searfoss, of Atlanta. He said it’s also unfair that older customers have been paying for a project for years and may never get any benefit from it.

“I’m an elderly customer caught in the Vogtle vortex,” he said. “In four months I’ll be 72, and I’ve had enough money taken.”

MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT.

AJC Business reporter Russell Grantham keeps you updated on the latest news about major companies, CEOs and public utilities in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

Never miss a minute of what's happening in local business news. Subscribe to myAJC.com.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

Atlanta airport official on leave after conflict of interest concerns
Atlanta airport official on leave after conflict of interest concerns

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has placed a high-ranking official at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on leave for possible conflict of interest – news that was immediately turned into political ammunition in the campaign to pick his successor. The action was taken against Cortez Carter, deputy general manager at the airport, whose wife owns...
Growth in tech jobs contributing to rise in Atlanta office rents
Growth in tech jobs contributing to rise in Atlanta office rents

The Atlanta area saw some of the largest increases in office rents on a percentage basis in North America over the past two years, and one report said the region’s boom in high-tech jobs has played a role in that. Metro Atlanta ranked third among the Top 30 tech markets in overall office rent growth, with rates increasing nearly 18 percent from...
This app could reduce the dangers of concussions in young athletes
This app could reduce the dangers of concussions in young athletes

Startup of the week: Who they are: PRIVIT What they do: Their app seeks to keep young athletes safer by helping coaches and trainers report and properly treat concussions and other injuries and medical conditions. Why it’s cool: There’s been plenty of buzz recently about the dangers of concussions in impact sports — including the...
The future is here: Augmented reality apps to use on iPhone or iPad

With the release of an updated mobile operating system in October, Apple’s new augmented reality platform is ready for take-off. The first generation of AR apps is available in Apple’s App Store, allowing millions of iPhone and iPad users to view three-dimensional computer-generated graphics on top of a user’s real-world view. With...
Why I’m skipping wireless charging on my iPhone 8 Plus

I’ve had the iPhone 8 Plus for about a month now, and while on launch day I thought I’d be most excited about wireless charging, I’ve found I’ve abandoned my wireless charger in favor of fast charging. I’ve come to like wireless charging when I’ve used Samsung’s phones, as it’s quite speedy, but Apple...
More Stories