Executives admit Vogtle delays, overruns possible

The company planning to build and operate two new reactors at Plant Vogtle acknowledged Friday the possibility that the nation's first commercial nuclear power project in decades could face delays and cost overruns.

However, Southern Co. officials also said a schedule lapse in recent months has been corrected, and they remain optimistic that a federal combined operating license will be issued for the $14.8 billion project without long delays.

The written testimony from Jeffrey Burleson, Southern Co.'s vice president of system planning, and Pete Ivey, Southern Nuclear's vice president of nuclear development, was filed with the Georgia Public Service Commission in response to assertions made June 10 by nuclear engineer William Jacobs, who was appointed by the commission to monitor the project.

Jacobs warned that unresolved design certification issues with the AP1000 reactors that will be used at the site are among several factors that could inflate costs and create construction delays. He cautioned that Southern Nuclear's plan to bring the new units online in 2016 and 2017 is based on the assumption that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will license the project this year.

Burleson and Ivey said officials expect the NRC to act on the license request this year, but they acknowledged the possibility of delays and higher costs.

At the time of Jacobs' testimony, they added, the schedule for Unit 3 was tracking a few months behind. Since then, those delays have been corrected and the project is on schedule again.

The company has projected commercial operation dates of April 1, 2016, for Unit 3 and April 1, 2017, for Unit 4.