Vogtle nuclear project could face more delays


State utility regulators were warned Tuesday of possibly more delays in bringing two new nuclear reactors on line, despite recent assurances from Georgia Power executives that they weren’t expecting any.

Meanwhile, a financial analyst for the state said the nuclear expansion is not the most cost effective option for Georgia in hindsight, but he cautioned that it is too late to backtrack on the project.

The analyst cited the massive growth in supplies of relatively cheap natural gas, which have caused other utilities to cancel or delay nuclear plans in favor of gas-fired plants.

The updated long-term schedule for Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle expansion shows additional delays that may push back the reactors startup dates by another three months into January 2018 and January 2019.

Steven Roetger, an analyst for the Georgia Public Service Commission, told regulators on Tuesday that “significant challenges to meet this schedule remain,” citing delivery timetables for major components. He said operational dates “remain far from certain.”

Georgia Power said earlier this year the $14 billion project will take 19 months longer than originally thought, mostly because of regulatory and pre-construction delays. The utility maintains that the reactors will start producing electricity in late 2017 and 2018.

Georgia Power and a group of municipal and cooperative utilities are building the twin reactors, the first built from scratch in nearly 30 years. The utility’s share of the project is $6.1 billion.

Most major equipment for the first of the two reactors has arrived at the construction site or is on its way, said William Jacobs, the project’s independent construction monitor.

But he said the key to the current schedule is delivery and installation of two major components: a building to house plant equipment, and for a “shield” building that protects the reactor vessel.

The components are being built at a site in Louisiana operated by Chicago Bridge & Iron, one of the project’s two main contractors. CB&I bought the Shaw Group, which had a history of delays in building components for Vogtle. Jacobs said he recently visited the site and saw “many improvements.”

“I’m optimistic that they will be able to improve their production rate,” Jacobs said. “It remains to be seen whether it will be sufficient to support the current schedule.”

Separately, consultant Philip Hayet told the commission that a nuclear plant is no longer economic compared to building gas-fired plants when factoring in total project costs, estimated fuel prices and the potential that the U.S. government may tax carbon emissions.

His exact calculations were not publicly released because they involve proprietary financial information from the utility. Still, his conclusion was clear.

“… If a decision had to be made today to build a new nuclear project, it would not be justified on the basis of these results,” Hayet testified. He monitors the economics of the Vogtle project for the PSC.

For Georgia, Hayet said, finishing the new reactors is the cheapest financial option at this point, but he added the project is a warning for other utilities considering new construction any time soon.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

Business stories of the week: Amazon, 2018 priorities, Phipps Plaza
Business stories of the week: Amazon, 2018 priorities, Phipps Plaza

The week had no shortage of business headlines among Atlanta area companies – or perhaps companies that want to become Atlanta area companies. From the Amazon second headquarters search to major development projects, here are some of the big business headlines you might have missed from the past week. Georgia and Atlanta area economic development...
More job cuts coming to Atlanta as part of Coca-Cola restructuring
More job cuts coming to Atlanta as part of Coca-Cola restructuring

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola plans to cut an additional 179 jobs in its hometown as part of a broader restructuring the beverage giant announced earlier this year. In filings with the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Workforce Division, Coke identified layoffs at three corporate offices in the city effective by the end of December...
Atlanta’s Phipps Plaza makeover plan shifts into overdrive
Atlanta’s Phipps Plaza makeover plan shifts into overdrive

The reinvention of Phipps Plaza into a mixed-use entertainment and shopping complex has been in the works for more than a decade. But the announcement Tuesday of a $200 million-plus expansion, including a flagship Nobu hotel and restaurant, will take that the makeover to a new level, officials with mall owner Simon hope. In Nobu, Phipps will add...
4 of the best ways to turn your home into a cash cow
4 of the best ways to turn your home into a cash cow

Your house is a large expense with many associated costs like a mortgage payment, insurance, maintenance and more. It provides a roof over your head, of course, but since it usually costs you money each month, why not put it to work for you and earn some cash in the process? The following are four ways your house can make you money: If you're planning...
6 things to know about working for Uber
6 things to know about working for Uber

Uber has been making headlines in recent months for everything from a new CEO to industry regulation. But if you want to work as a driver for the service that revolutionized the taxi-transport industry, there is more important information about Uber you'll want to check out. Here are six things you need to know about Uber before working for them...
More Stories