PSC consultants caution about more nuke delays

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The Public Service Commission’s expert consultants have cautioned the regulatory agency that there could be additional delays in the construction of two nuclear reactors at Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle.

The planned completion of the $14.5 billion nuclear construction project has already slipped by about 21 months and could fall further behind, according to a monitoring report filed by PSC analyst Steven D. Roetger and William R. Jacobs, a nuclear engineer hired to monitor the progress of Vogtle’s construction.

They recommended the commission sign off on the cost reports for construction work done in 2013 that were submitted by Georgia Power, the lead partner in a consortium of energy companies that is financing the project. (Georgia Power’s share of that cost was $389 million.)

They confirmed that the massive nuclear project is still slightly under budget – primarily because the consortium has been unable to get some of the work done on time so that they could be paid for it.

“More plainly, the Project is under budget because the Consortium has not completed the milestones necessary to receive milestone payments as anticipated in the Company’s current budget,” Jacobs and Roetger said. “Thus, the Consortium has been paid less at this time than projected by the Company’s current budget because they have not accomplished work according to scheduled milestones.”

The consortium is trying to make up some of the construction delays by completing the shield building for the reactors in a shorter period of time, but the PSC monitors were doubtful this could be accomplished.

“To assume that the duration for site erection of the Shield Building can be significantly compressed appears to be unsupportable and speculative given the Consortium’s history of delays in fabrication and assembly of sub-modules to full modules, and the Shield Building’s first of a kind design,” Jacobs and Roetger said.

They also noted that the Westinghouse AP1000 reactors that will generate the electricity will be the first in this country to use a fully digital control system, a technology that is still unproven.

“As with any first of a kind activity there is a significant risk that design, installation and testing of the digital control systems will take longer than anticipated and will impact the Project schedule,” they said.

“The current schedule to develop the digital control design, that supports the Plant Reference Simulator needed to train and license plant operators, has no float remaining,” they said.

Georgia Power has maintained that the Vogtle project will provide financial benefits to the utility’s ratepayers once the reactors are in operation.

Utility executives testified earlier this month that the Unit 3 reactor will begin service by the fourth quarter of 2017 and Unit 4 by the end of 2018.

© 2014 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: cost monitoring report , Georgia Power , nuclear reactors , Plant Vogtle , PSC