Georgia Power reports costs, challenges of Vogtle expansion

Even with expenses incurred through later operation dates, the projected final costs are still $92 million below the original certified amount, the report said.

Plant Vogtle’s primary owner acknowledged Friday that many factors could increase the nuclear expansion’s $14 billion price tag but did not ask Georgia’s Public Service Commission to amend the project’s certified cost.

In its newest construction monitoring report to state regulators, Georgia Power Co. also reiterated that delays in licensing the two new reactors will continue to affect planned startup dates.

“We recognize that the April 2016 and April 2017 in-service dates are no longer realistically achievable,” the report said, adding that the newest projections indicate that the two new reactors will go into service “no earlier than” November 2016 and November 2017.

Even with expenses incurred through later operation dates, the projected final costs are still $92 million below the original certified amount, the report said.

The owners are spending more, however, on quality assurance, oversight, operational readiness and regulatory compliance. Final projected costs in those categories rose from $621 million in 2009 to a $696 million estimate made in the second half of 2011. Friday’s report, which covers Jan. 1 to June 30, raised that projection to $755 million.

In an interview to discuss the monitoring report, Buzz Miller, the executive vice president of nuclear development for Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear, said that as many as 150 additional workers could be needed to bolster oversight programs that ensure rules are followed and materials meet strict nuclear standards.

“It doesn’t mean we have hired them all yet, or that we will need them all at one time, but this is what we’ve projected,” he said. Quality assurance personnel have been deployed in many U.S. locations where materials for the Vogtle project are being made – and to supplier venues as remote as Japan, Korea and Italy, he said

Other future cost increases, the report said, could be driven by changes to the reactor design approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, taxes, additional backfill work at the site, and governmental mandates such as increased cyber security and physical security.

The owners also remain in a dispute with the contractor consortium, Stone & Webster and Westinghouse, over who is responsible for additional costs that could add as much as $425 million to Georgia Power’s share of the project. Georgia Power, which owns 45.7 percent of Plant Vogtle, has not accepted responsibility for those costs.

“We continue with negotiations and the formal dispute process with the contractor to resolve the ongoing cost and schedule disputes,” Friday’s report said. “Once those disputes are resolved, the owners may conclude that the projected cost should be revised to reflect additional costs – as necessary and prudent – at that time.”

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