Plant Vogtle’s nuclear expansion must overcome delays in fabricating and shipping critical components to avoid further cost overruns, a state-appointed expert testified Thursday.
“The cost of schedule delays continues to be potentially one of the largest cost drivers that could increase project costs,” said William Jacobs, a nuclear engineer hired by the Georgia Public Service Commission to monitor the $14 billion-plus construction program on behalf of utility rate-payers and the public.
In particular, he said, the contractor consortium “has not demonstrated the ability to fabricate high-quality CA20 submodules at its Lake Charles, La., facility that meet the design requirements at a rate necessary to support the project schedule.”
The 700-ton CA20 module, assembled from 72 “submodules” built in Lake Charles and shipped to Burke County, is among the largest components of the Westinghouse AP1000 reactors.
Jacobs said both the CA20 module and the CA01 module that forms the refueling canal and steam generator compartments “remain significantly behind schedule.”
Some of the submodules will require rework at the Vogtle site, he said, and others are being released from Lake Charles only after a detailed inspection.
“At this time, we are not able to conclude that the schedule is reasonable and achievable until the consortium has demonstrated the ability to fabricate and assemble the CA20 module,” Jacobs said.
The two new reactors were first scheduled to go online in 2016 and 2017, but the startup dates have been extended to the fourth quarters of 2017 and 2018.
Jacobs said many activities on the project involve first-of-its-kind technology that will challenge the current schedule.
Further delays, he warned, could “result in increased direct construction costs and additional financing costs which could be several hundred million dollars.”
He added, however, that significant management changes have occurred, with both Westinghouse Electric Corp. and contractor Chicago Bridge & Iron.
“These changes are clearly positive for the project,” Jacobs said. “Whether the new management team can successfully maintain the current schedule given the challenges that lie ahead remains to be seen.”