Georgia PSC approves Vogtle completion

21 December 2017

This story has been updated to include additional details and reaction

The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) has today unanimously approved Georgia Power's recommendation to complete Vogtle units 3 and 4. The project's owners have agreed to new penalties for delays and cost increases stipulated by the PSC.

Vogtle units 1-4 pictured in November (Image: Georgia Power)

The PSC has been considering the recommendation put forward in August by the owners of Vogtle 3 and 4 - Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities - to continue construction of the two AP100 units. That recommendation was based on the results of a comprehensive schedule, cost-to-complete and cancellation assessment undertaken by the plant's owners following contractor Westinghouse's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in March.

PSC Chairman Stan Wise said he believed the conditions imposed through a motion proposed by Vice Chairman Tim Echols were reasonable. "We did not shirk our responsibility today," he said. "I believe the fuel diversity and the long-term benefit that we will receive over the life of this project was the overriding factor in the Commission's decision today."

In its decision on the 17th Vogtle Construction Monitoring Report, the PSC determined that Vogtle units 3 and 4 should be completed, and approved and verified $542 million in expenditures on the project between 1 January and 30 June. It also approved Georgia Power's revised schedule and cost forecast, which it found to be "reasonable". The approved cost forecast will be reduced by the amounts paid by Toshiba under its parent guarantee, which places the approved revised capital forecast at $7.3 billion.

The PSC also authorised Georgia Power to develop a 5 MWe community solar facility on property it owns next to the Vogtle plant.

"The decision to complete Vogtle 3 and 4 is important for Georgia's energy future and the United States," Georgia Power chairman, president and CEO Paul Bowers said. "The Georgia Public Service Commission has shown leadership in making this complex and difficult decision and recognised that the Vogtle expansion is key to ensuring that our state has affordable and reliable energy today that will support economic growth now and for generations to come," he added. 

A new conditional commitment of about $1.67 billion in additional loan guarantees from the US Department of Energy, announced in September, and the recent payment by Toshiba of 100% of parent guarantees which had been scheduled to take place over several years, will also help to minimise the impact of the new units on electricity bills, the company said. The parent guarantee payments, in addition to penalties, are expected to contribute $2.75 billion.

Georgia Power is also actively supporting legislation that would enable the Vogtle plant to continue to qualify for advanced nuclear production tax credits if the units enter service after 2021. Under existing tax rules the units - expected to start commercial operation in November 2021 (unit 3) and November 2022 (unit 4) - would need to be brought on line before 1 January 2021 to qualify for credits.

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Twitter that the PSC decision signalled a commitment to moving the project forward. "This is an important milestone for the future of clean, reliable, and American nuclear energy!"

Westinghouse said it was "pleased to learn" of the PSC's decision, which the company's president and CEO. José Emeterio Gutiérrez, said signalled the importance of the USA's domestic nuclear energy programme.

"This is an especially important decision for the US energy sector and the global nuclear energy industry. Georgia's economy will continue to reap the benefits of the reliable, safe and clean energy the units will provide when complete, he said.

Construction has continued uninterrupted at Vogtle following Westinghouse's bankruptcy, with Southern Nuclear taking over as project manager at the site and Bechtel managing construction.

"Progress is steady and evident, illustrated by multiple recent achievements such as the placement of new shield building panels for both units, placement of the 52-ton CA02 module for Unit 4 and the installation of the first steam generator," Georgia Power said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News