Pandemic prompts cuts to Vogtle construction workforce

April 23, 2020, 5:34PMNuclear News

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, Georgia Power Company is reducing the number of workers at its Vogtle-3 and -4 construction site, in Waynesboro, Ga., by approximately 20 percent, according to a recent joint Securities and Exchange Commission filing by the company and parent firm Southern Company.

What it says: As stated in the filing, dated April 15, the reduction is intended to address the impact that the coronavirus is having on the site and its workforce, “including ongoing challenges with labor productivity that have been exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19. [The reduction] is expected to provide operational efficiencies by increasing productivity of the remaining workforce and reducing workforce fatigue and absenteeism.” A number of Vogtle construction site workers have chosen to stay home because of the pandemic, according to a Georgia Power spokesperson.

Georgia Power also expects the cutback to allow workers to practice proper social distancing and comply with the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The company envisions the reduced workforce levels lasting into the summer.

Costs: In the filing, Georgia Power estimates its proportionate share of the incremental cost of the new workforce levels to be between $15 million and $30 million, assuming that rates of worker absenteeism normalize and that the intended productivity efficiencies are realized in the next few months. Georgia Power “does not expect [the cutback] to affect the total project capital cost forecast or the ability to achieve the regulatory-approved in-service dates of November 2021 and November 2022 for Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4, respectively,” the company said.

Background: Georgia Power confirmed the first case of COVID-19 at the site on April 6. By April 18, 74 workers had the virus, with 202 more testing negative and 27 awaiting results, according to a company press release. “With each person tested, we act quickly, self-isolating the individuals, along with the personnel who have been in close proximity to them, immediately after learning they have been tested for COVID-19,” the release said, adding that a number of “proactive measures” have been taken, including “worker distancing strategies,” such as adjusting break schedules, adding mobile facilities, expanding the onsite medical clinic, and suspending large group meetings.

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