Increased productivity at Vogtle construction site

21 February 2019

"Significant progress" during 2018 with the construction of Vogtle 3 and 4 means Southern Company expects the two AP1000 units to be completed on schedule and to budget, the company said during its fourth quarter results call.

Construction work at Vogtle (Image: Georgia Power)

Construction of Vogtle unit 3 began in March 2013 and unit 4 in November the same year. Southern Nuclear and Georgia Power, both subsidiaries of Southern Company, took over management of the construction project in 2017 following Westinghouse's Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

"2018 was a year of incredible accomplishments for Southern Company," said President and CEO Thomas Fanning. "We entered the year with a great deal of uncertainty regarding corporate tax reform and our own first full year as general contractor at Vogtle 3 and 4."

He noted that last July the company revised its "estimated costs to complete and recalibrated site production expectations with a site-wide reset". Since then, he said, Southern Company has "achieved a trajectory of staffing and productive hours worked per week that is ahead of what we targeted on our last earnings call". He added, "We continue to have a lot of work ahead of us to sustain this performance but we are pleased with our progress and are confident that we can meet the schedule approved by our regulators."

Fanning said Southern Company had achieved its "major 2018 construction milestones". The Vogtle 3 and 4 project is now about 74% complete, he announced.

"During the past three months several significant milestones were achieved," Fanning said. "Unit 3 milestones included setting the first reactor cooling pump, placement of the third and final containment ring and setting the main control room roof. At unit 4, we set the pressuriser and second steam generator inside the containment vessel. Additionally, since our third quarter call, the remaining two AP1000 units in China - Sanmen 2 and Haiyang 2 - achieved commercial operation. Lessons learned from China will continue to benefit our project."

Fanning noted that Southern Company had said in November it was targeting to ramp up to 140,000 productive hours of work per week by March. "So far, for the month of February, we have averaged 141,000 earned hours per week. In fact, last week, we achieved 146,000 hours. We are focused on sustaining this progress throughout 2019 and into spring of 2020.

"We currently estimate that we need to sustain approximately 110,000 weekly earned hours in order to meet the November 2021 and November 2022 regulatory-approved schedule," Fanning said.

He noted the company is working on a schedule to complete the units by April 2021 and April 2022, respectively, in order to gain margin on the November schedule.

"We are currently in the midst of re-baselining our work for Vogtle units 3 and 4," he said. "This re-baselining effort will refine the weekly work plan for the remainder of the project. Our over-arching objective in the re-baselining effort is to maintain the aggressive work plan at the site allowing us to preserve as much margin in our schedule as possible to the November 2021 and November 2022 regulatory-approved in-service dates. While it's important to acknowledge this re-baselining effort is not complete, we continue to expect that project schedule and capital cost forecast will be consistent with our prior estimates. And, based on early indications, we also expect a reduction in the amount of remaining productive hours needed to complete the project.

"Everything we see right now, as of today, says cost and schedule are preserved and we expect to have to spend less hours to complete the project than what is currently in our budget." He said Southern Company foresees a reduction of around 600,000 hours.

Georgia Power is expected to submit a report on the re-baselining with the Georgia Public Service Commission no later than 15 May.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News