Public Service Commission begins Vogtle hearings

08 November 2017

The recent mitigation of some of the risks connected with the construction of Vogtle 3 and 4 have further strengthened the case for proceeding with the project, its owners told the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) this week. The PSC will make a decision on the project's future as part of the 17th Vogtle Construction Monitoring (VCM) Report, for which it is currently holding public hearings.

 Vogtle 3's containment pictured in October, showing both steam generators in place (Image: Georgia Power)

The owners of Vogtle 3 and 4 - Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities - filed their recommendation to continue with construction in August. The recommendation was reached after a schedule, cost-to-complete and cancellation assessment was undertaken following contractor Westinghouse's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in March.

Addressing the PSC on behalf of all the owners at the start of the hearings, Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers said they were "unified" in their recommendation to move forward with the project. They believed they had identified the risks and provided the necessary information to support the recommendation, he said, but also understood that the "complex and difficult" decision on whether to move forward with the project would ultimately be made by the PSC.

"Based on all factors considered, completing both units represents the best economic choice for customers and preserves the benefits of carbon-free, baseload generation for our state," Bowers said.

He highlighted two developments since the August filing that had mitigated some of the risks, and further strengthened the recommendation to proceed with the project. A conditional agreement with the US Department of Energy for about $3.6 billion in additional loan guarantees was reached in September, while Toshiba made the first payments under its guarantee obligations as the parent company of Westinghouse - $300 million on 2 October, and $77.5 million on 1 November. Bowers said the loan guarantee illustrated continued federal support for new nuclear, while Toshiba's payments represented a "positive indication" that the company intends to fulfil its commitments to pay a total of $3.686 billion under the guarantee.

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," Bowers said.

Construction of Vogtle unit 3 began at the site, near Waynesboro, Georgia, in March 2013 and unit 4 in November of that year. Vogtle 3 is now expected to begin operation in November 2021 and Voglte 4 in November 2022. Based on those dates, Bowers said, the projected peak rate impact to Georgia Power's retail customers is about 10%, which is less than the company's original projections of 12%.

The Vogtle units will be the first in the USA to use AP1000 technology following the decision by Scana Corporation subsidiary South Carolina Electric & Gas to cease construction of two AP1000 reactors at VC Summer in South Carolina.

The PSC expects to issue a decision on the future of the project on 6 February.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News