Vogtle making good progress despite delay

03 September 2012

Georgia Power has put back the expected dates for its new units at Vogtle to enter service by several months, although the delay is not currently expected to impact plant costs.

Vogtle 4 vessel bottom head (Georgia Power)_200
Work is ahead of schedule on Vogtle 4's vessel bottom head (Image: Georgia Power)

In its most recent semi-annual filing with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power said that it expects Vogtle units 3 and 4 to enter service in November 2016 and November 2017 respectively. Previous filings had anticipated in-service dates of April 2016 and April 2017 for the two AP1000s, but according to the company these dates are no longer realistically achievable thanks to delays in securing full regulatory approval of the design control document (DCD) for the plant.

Work began to install steel reinforcing bar (rebar) for the base mat in the nuclear island for Vogtle 3 in February, soon after the plant received its construction and operation licence (COL) from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). However, in March the NRC ruled that a design for the installation of floor rebar developed by Georgia Power's contractor did not conform with the DCD, and installation work was put on hold pending investigations and licence amendment requests. Permission was granted to restart rebar installation in early August. Georgia Power says it expects to receive approval of its licence amendment request from the NRC in October, when it will start pouring the first nuclear concrete for unit 3.

Despite the hiatus in rebar installation, Georgia Power says the project is progressing well. Erection of major equipment is under way at the site, the assembly and welding of unit 3's containment vessel bottom head is complete. Assembly of unit 4's containment vessel bottom head is 50% complete and is ahead of schedule. Work on foundations for unit 3's turbine buildings and for cooling towers for both units remains on schedule, and procurement of major components and bulk commodities is on track, the company reports.

The latest report estimates Georgia Power's total projected costs for the project at $6.2 billion - slightly up on the $6.1 billion projected costs in its last semi-annual report but still lower than the $6.5 billion originally projected when the Georgia PSC first certified the project in March 2009. Although Exelon recently decided to drop plans for a new nuclear plant at Victoria County in Texas, citing economic conditions and low natural gas prices, Georgia Power says that nuclear still represents net savings compared to a combined cycle natural gas option identified as the "next best" alternative. According to the report, the Vogtle units will represent net savings of over $5 billion over the next best alternative over the lifetime of the plant.

Georgia Power owns 45.7% of the new units, with the remainder being owned by Oglethorpe Power Corporation (30%), the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (22.7%) and Dalton Utilities (1.6%). The plant will be licensed and operated by Southern Nuclear. The total cost of the project is estimated at $14 billion.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News