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The Vogtle Nuclear Plant Saga - So Far

image credit: Credit John Bazemore / Associated Press
Mark Silverstone's picture
Principal, JMP Services AS

30+ years in Oil & Gas Industry Field of Interest: Environmental issues in general; waste management issues in particular. 

  • Member since 2002
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  • Dec 13, 2021


"August 2008: Southern Co. and utility partners apply to receive a federal loan guarantee. Total costs for the project are estimated at $14.3 billion."

Nuclear Electricity Generation Plant in Georgia:

"The Vogtle Electric Generating Plant is spread across 3,200 acres around the Savannah River."

"The estimated cost for constructing units 3 and 4 is $19bn."

"In February 2012, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the construction and operation of units 3 and 4."

"The simplified plant design accelerates the construction time to 36 months."

The World Nuclear News reported on April 26, 2021 that

«Georgia Power expects to meet the November 2021 and November 2022 regulatory-approved in-service dates for units 3 and 4, respectively.»

However, less than three weeks later, AP news reported:

«Georgia Power Co. said Tuesday that delays in completing testing means the first new unit at its Vogtle plant is now unlikely to start generating electricity before January at the earliest.

The company says that workers being out with COVID-19 has caused delays in recent months, as well as having to redo electrical and other work that the company decided wasn’t up to standard. Georgia Power said there’s some evidence that contractors were declaring work complete without testing for deficiencies, relying on inspectors to catch it and fix any problems later. The company is currently engaged in hot functional testing of the first reactor, and has encountered more expansion of metal parts as systems were heated up than anticipated.

“There’s a chance we may need to make some adjustments to the structural supports,” Stephen Kuczynski, president and CEO of Southern Nuclear, said Tuesday of the thermal expansion issues.»

«The project is now projected to cost more than $26 billion... »

Then, in October of 2021, again from AP:

«The unit of Atlanta-based Southern Co. now says the third reactor at Plant Vogtle won’t start generating electricity until sometime between July and September of next year. Previously the company said it would start in June at the latest. The fourth reactor won’t come online until sometime between April and June of 2023.»

«The delay will mean more costs for a project already estimated to exceed $27.8 billion overall.»

There´s more: Then, in November of 2021, the Augusta Chronicle reported:

«The cost of two nuclear reactors being built in Georgia is now $28.5 billion, more than twice the original price tag...»

«Total costs are actually higher than $28.5 billion, because that doesn’t count the $3.68 billion that contractor Westinghouse paid back to owners after going bankrupt.»

Just last week, the Nuclear Newswire reported:

"Latest Delay to Vogtle project may not be the last"

«Georgia Power has revised the projected commercial operation dates for Vogtle-3 and -4 a total of four times this year—most recently in October—but some experts are saying that at least one more delay is probable.

In testimony filed with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) last week, Donald Grace, vice president of engineering for the Vogtle Monitoring Group, stated that the commercial operation dates for Unit 3 and Unit 4 “will most likely not be achieved any earlier than November 2022/2023, respectively, and perhaps as late as February 2023/2024, respectively.” »

«The delays and cost increase, he (Grace) added, were largely attributable to construction quality issues with electrical equipment and systems... »

So, the project cost is now $28.5 billion and counting, and still at least a year away from operational. I wonder if anyone would have wanted to move forward on this project if they knew what would happen.  If so, what would the cost have to be to make it unacceptable?  Would any industry insiders care to comment on whether or not the NRC has acted responsibly with respect to Vogtle?  Is there any indication that “over-regulation” accounts for the cost overruns and delays?



Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Dec 13, 2021

I have always said that Nuclear is the most expensive power ever made. The fuel , Uranium and a finite fuel. It is expensive to mine and transport. Once it is used it needs to be stored for thousands of years to be safe. While operating the plant it must be cooled and that takes a lot of water. The regulations and operating procedures and inspections must be perfect. 

   Imagine instead how much Solar PV you could have installed and already have operating. Imagine thousands of wind generators and battery storage you could have had in and working. Imagine getting free fuel every Sunny day in Georgia. Don't just imagine start doing it now.  

Mark Silverstone's picture
Thank Mark for the Post!
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