Southern Co. unit Georgia Power informed state regulators that it plans to go ahead with its work at the Vogtle nuclear plant, despite costs running as high as $25 billion and the recent abandonment of similar projects by other utilities.
Georgia Power reported Thursday that it told the Georgia Public Service Commission that work will continue on the expansion at the Vogtle plant near Augusta. The utility is building units 3 and 4 there and has already spent more than $4 billion of its own capital on the project and expects to eventually spend more than $8 billion, according to reports.
The rare good news for nuclear power proponents in the U.S. comes after a rush of negative developments in recent months. Reactor building Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy while Santee Cooper and Duke Energy both announced they were ceasing work on the V.C. Summer and William States Lee nuclear projects, respectively.
"Completing the Vogtle 3 & 4 expansion will enable us to continue delivering clean, safe, affordable and reliable energy to millions of Georgians, both today and in the future," said Paul Bowers, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power, in a statement. "The two new units at Plant Vogtle will be in service for 60 to 80 years and will add another low-cost, carbon-free energy source to our already diverse fuel mix."
Georgia Power expects Vogtle Unit 3 will reach commercial operation in November 2021 and Unit 4 in November 2022.
In July, Georgia Power finalized a new service agreement with Westinghouse for the Vogtle nuclear expansion—the first new nuclear units to be built in the United States in more than 30 years. Previously, Westinghouse, the developer of the AP1000 nuclear technology being used by the new units, served as the primary contractor with oversight and responsibility for all construction activities.
Under the new service agreement, approved by the U.S. Department of Energy on July 27, Southern Nuclear (the Southern Company subsidiary which operates the existing units at Plant Vogtle) will oversee construction activities at the site.
Following the Westinghouse bankruptcy filing on March 29, construction momentum has continued uninterrupted. Over the last 30 days alone, progress includes new concrete placement within the Unit 3 shield building and nuclear island, placement of structural steel for the Unit 4 annex building and the first of four 85,000-pound accumulator tanks for the new units within the Unit 3 containment vessel.
Earlier this month, Duke Energy Carolinas asked regulators for cost recovery and a way out of its proposed William States Lee III Nuclear Generating Station. The Charlotte, North Carolina-based unit of Duke Energy can't cancel the new nuclear project all on its own, so it filed a proposal with regulators Friday specifically to cancel it.
Duke Energy Carolinas seeks to make up a minimum of $368 million in pre-construction costs, likely from raising rates on customers, according to the Charlotte Business Journal. If regulators agree to the plan, Duke would spread out its cost recovery over 12 years.
Duke Carolinas has planned the new nuclear plant since 2005, and chose Gaffney, South Carolina as the construction site the following year.
In July, South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. (SCE&G), a unit of SCANA Corp., and state-owned Santee Cooper announced they were ceasing construction of the two new nuclear units at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Jenkinsville, S.C.