ATLANTA — The first of two new nuclear reactors being built at Georgia Power's Plant Vogtle will go into service later this year about a month after anticipated, the Atlanta-based utility announced Jan. 11.
Vibrations of pipes within the cooling system were discovered during startup and pre-operational testing at Unit 3, the company reported in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
As a result, Georgia Power now projects the startup date for the project will be put back to April rather than March.
"As we continue to conduct start-up and pre-operational testing for Vogtle Unit 3, everything we do is to help ensure that the unit will function safely and as designed," Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins wrote in an email to Capitol Beat. "We are focused on getting this project done right, with safety and quality first, as we work to bring these new nuclear units online that will serve as a clean, zero-emissions energy source for millions of Georgians."
Delaying the project beyond the first quarter is expected to raise capital costs for Georgia Power up to $15 million per month.
Southern Nuclear, the Southern Co. subsidiary managing the Vogtle expansion, plans to file an amendment request with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
The projected schedule for Unit 3 depends primarily on the progression of startup, final component, and pre-operational testing, which may be affected by equipment or other operational failures, according to the SEC filing.
Ongoing or future challenges also include management of contractors and vendors, subcontractor performance, supervision of craft labor and related productivity, ability to attract and retain craft labor, and/or related cost escalation.
New challenges also may arise requiring engineering changes or remediation related to plant systems, structures, or components, some of which are based on new technology. The new Plant Vogtle reactors are the first to be built in the U.S. in more than 30 years.
The two reactors were originally expected to go into service in 2016 and 2017, respectively. But the work was delayed by the bankruptcy of Westinghouse Electric, the original prime contractor on the project, as well as pandemic-related disruptions to the construction workforce.
The delays caused a series of cost overruns that more than doubled the original expected price tag of $14 billion.
The project's critics have long complained that Georgia Power could have found less expensive ways to increase its power generating capacity to meet the needs of a growing number of customers, including more aggressive deployment of renewable energy.