Southern Co. executive sees Plant Vogtle nosing out SC plant

It’s not a race to see who can build America’s first commercial nuclear reactor in 30 years, but if it were, Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle would likely beat SCANA Corp.’s V.C. Summer by a nose in 2019.

 

The head of construction for Geor­gia Power’s corporate parent said Wednesday that the first new Vogtle unit could come online two to three months before those being built at the Summer plant in Jenkinsville, S.C.

“They’re basically right on the same schedule – same contractor, same technology,” David McKinney, the vice president of construction for Southern Co., said during a presentation at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Luncheon.

The utility companies are each building two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at their sites, with Texas-based Fluor Corp. overseeing both projects.

Though the overall pace of work is similar, milestones at the two sites are not reached in tandem. For example, SCANA announced Tues­day that it had set its 305-ton reactor vessel in V.C. Summer’s unit 2 containment building. But McKinney said Wednesday that Vogtle’s first reactor wouldn’t be placed for about six weeks.

While the executive was speaking at Savannah Rapids Pavilion, Georgia Power corporate officials in Atlanta were providing the Geor­gia Public Service Commission its 15th biannual update, officially known as the Vogtle Construction Monitoring Report.

The report also serves as the company’s request for approval of project expenditures, which during the first half of 2016 were $141 million. Last month, the PSC approved second-half 2015 expenses of $160 million.

Georgia Power says its share of capital and construction costs for the new units remains at $5.44 billion, with projected startup dates of June 2019 for unit 3 and June 2020 for unit 4.

Most of the 6 to 8 percent impact on electric rates has already been factored into customer bills, with all but about 2.5 percent to be spread
out during the next three years.

Progress outlined in the monitoring report included placement of all “Big Six” modules in unit 3 and the completion of all modifications at the Vogtle unit 1 switchyard required to connect the new units to the grid without disruptions.

McKinney said Vogtle is the “largest construction job producer” in the state, with more than 6,000 workers currently at the site and 800 permanent jobs when the new units begin operation.

A sizable number of those employees will likely live in Co­lum­bia County, McKinney said.

“If we look at our current statistics for the folks who are working at units 1 and 2, about 40 percent live in Columbia County,” said McKinney, who lived in the county’s West Lake neighborhood when he was based in the area.

With a total of four units at one complex, the expansion will make Plant Vogtle the nation’s largest nuclear generating station. McKinney said he didn’t believe federal regulators wanted to see a single location get any larger.

Earlier this year, Georgia Power began laying the regulatory groundwork needed to build a new nuclear power plant in rural Stewart County south of Columbus.

“That’s really us trying to keep our options open,” McKinney said.

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