GEORGIA, September 6, 2017 - Despite ballooning costs and timeline setbacks, Georgia Power Company announced it will continue construction of nuclear power units at Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro. Co-owners Oglethorpe Power (OPC), MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities, all support the recommendation. The company filed its recommendation with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) last week along with a semi-annual Construction Monitoring Report, in accordance with a PSC Aug. 15 directive.
Completion of the two reactors came into question when Westinghouse, the project’s original contractor, declared bankruptcy on March 29.
"Completing the Vogtle 3 & 4 expansion will enable us to continue delivering clean, safe, affordable and reliable energy to millions of Georgians, both today and in the future," said Paul Bowers, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power. "The two new units at Plant Vogtle will be in service for 60 to 80 years and will add another low-cost, carbon-free energy source to our already diverse fuel mix."
Georgia Power maintains more than 30 plants throughout the state of Georgia which utilize a variety of power generation sources including solar, hydroelectricity, steam, combined cycle and combustion turbine. The company currently owns one other nuclear power plant near the Altahama River. Plant Hatch began construction in 1968 and began operations in 1975. The plant’s units are currently licensed to operate through the 2030s.
“We believe we must take a long-term view and recognize the benefits of fuel diversity and the price stability of emission-free nuclear power over the next 60 to 80 years,” Mike Smith, president and CEO of OPC, stated, “especially when considering the risks of carbon-based fuel volatility and the potential for carbon regulation.”
Construction on the two Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear power plant units began in 2005 at Plant Vogtle.
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) CEO Jim Matheson applauded the decision to proceed with construction, noting a need to employ energy derived from a variety of sources.
“A diverse fuel mix is vital as electric co-ops work to meet 21st century energy needs and ensure continued access to affordable, reliable power,” Matheson said. “Nuclear energy is an essential source of emissions-free, 24/7 power. The Vogtle reactors will help Georgia’s electric cooperatives diversify their portfolio while protecting America’s leadership in nuclear energy. The decision to continue Vogtle is a win for Georgia electric cooperatives and our national energy security.”
Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) President and CEO Maria Korsnick said the announcement is “a shot in the arm for the employees and contractors on site and America’s nuclear supply chain, sustaining a ripple effect that will generate jobs and economic activity across Georgia and the nation for the entire 60-year life of the reactors.”
The new units at Plant Vogtle will be the first in the United States to use Westinghouse AP1000 technology, said to be one of the most advanced and safest nuclear designs in the world. The world’s first four AP1000 units are nearing completion at the Sanmen and Haiyang sites in China. Westinghouse President and CEO Jose E. Gutierrez offered his support for Georgia Power’s decision to continue the project.
“We are very pleased with Georgia Power’s decision to recommend the continued construction of Vogtle 3 & 4, and are honored to have the opportunity to move forward with our Vogtle customers,” said Gutiérrez. “These units will continue to provide employment for thousands of workers as we help to bring safe, clean, affordable nuclear energy to the citizens of Georgia. Georgia Power’s continued confidence in the AP1000 plant technology strengthens their energy offerings and nuclear energy’s role in America’s infrastructure.”
Georgia electric cooperatives and NRECA are advocating legislation in Congress that would allow not-for-profit co-owners to benefit from production tax credits for nuclear energy projects. H.R. 1551 passed the House of Representatives and is awaiting Senate consideration.
“Investment in nuclear energy is critical to energy independence, national security, and job creation in America,” said Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., who introduced the bill. “Passage of this bill gives these cutting-edge facilities certainty in their investment while creating parity so savings can be passed on to consumers.”
The change would reduce the cost of the Vogtle project by hundreds of millions of dollars for Georgia electric co-op members.
“The Vogtle reactors are a national asset that we can ill afford to lose, and the Senate must act quickly to preserve a critical piece of our strategic infrastructure. We need the Senate to follow the example of the House and vote to lift the deadline for the nuclear production tax credit,” Korsnick said.
Georgia Power’s revised schedule projects a commercial operation date of November 2021 for unit 3 and November 2022 for unit 4. Georgia Power’s share of the total capital cost now comes to $8.77 billion. The actual impact on customers of capital costs is expected to be approximately $1.41 billion.
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