The Public Service Commission is concerned about Georgia Power’s timeline for the completion of two new nuclear reactors at Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant near Waynesboro.
Officials from Georgia Power say they have ordered the first nuclear fuel load for the plant’s third unit, which is scheduled to go online in May 2021. The fourth unit is scheduled to go online in May 2022.
“Although the process employed to develop the April 2019 Schedule Baseline was generally sound, it should be recognized that in order to address the aggressive schedule completion dates adopted by SNC there are approaches being taken to the project which the staff finds to be inconsistent with staff’s collective experience in nuclear construction and large plant construction,” the PSC said in a report issued July 30.
Construction of the two units has been plagued with cost overruns. The $17.1 billion price tag could continue to rise if Georgia Power can’t complete the project on time, the PSC said in the report.
Georgia Power’s focus on completing systems before finishing civil/structural work and installing bulk commodities may cause problems that could cause congestion among workers and the need for extra hours for night-shift workers, the PSC said in the report.
Absenteeism was also cited as a problem at the construction site. Currently, 8,000 people are working at the site, according to Georgia Power. The units are expected to result in 800 permanent jobs when completed.
The reactors at Vogtle were approved by the PSC in 2009 and were scheduled for completion in 2017, but the project had several delays. Georgia Power hit a stumbling block when the contractor, Westinghouse Electric Company, filed for bankruptcy in 2017.
Georgia Power has continued work on the project and three low-pressure turbine rotors and the generator rotor inside the unit 3 turbine building are completed, company officials said. A high-pressure turbine rotor is expected to be installed at a later date.
The order for the 157 uranium fuel assemblies is the first for a new U.S. reactor in more than 30 years, according to Georgia Power. The fuel assemblies will not be loaded into the unit 3 reactor vessel until the unit is operating in 2021.
Three months ago, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, North America's Building Trades Unions President Sean McGarvey, PSC members and lawmakers visited the site to witness the placement of the containment vessel top. That placement indicated modules and large components have been placed inside the unit, company officials said.