Experts predict further delay to commercial start of Vogtle-3

June 11, 2021, 7:02AMNuclear News
Vogtle-3’s containment (right) and turbine building (left) in May. Photo: Georgia Power

Georgia Power recently pushed back its projected commercial operation date for Vogtle-3 from December of this year to January 2022, but now some engineering and financial experts are saying that this revised date is too optimistic.

In testimony filed on June 7 with the Georgia Public Service Commission , Don Grace, vice president of engineering for the Vogtle Monitoring Group, says that Unit 3 is unlikely to begin commercial operation before the summer of 2022, and that Unit 4 likely won’t be up and running until the following summer. (The regulatory approved start dates for Vogtle-3 and -4 are November 2021 and November 2022, respectively.) In addition, according to Grace, the total cost of the Vogtle plant’s nuclear expansion project is set to exceed the regulatory approved $17.1 billion by some $2 billion.

Backup: Similarly pessimistic testimony was filed by Steven Roetger, lead analyst on the commission’s Staff Public Interest Advocacy Team for the project, and William Jacobs, executive consultant with GDS Associates and the Vogtle project’s independent construction monitor. According to Roetger and Jacobs, the startup of Unit 3 will be “significantly later” than January 2022, in large part because of the delay in initiating hot functional testing (HFT), which was supposed to begin in January but did not commence until April, as well as the testing’s “extended duration.”

“Completion of Unit 3 HFT has been delayed for a wide variety of causes,” Roetger and Jacobs state. “These include failure of required components, failure to implement required software upgrades, failure to establish the required initial conditions before starting HFT, failure to have completed construction of required systems, and failure to ensure that support systems operate reliably prior to starting HFT. Numerous issues on both the primary side and the secondary side of the plant have been identified as HFT continues.”

The official response: “Our current site workplan indicates a January 2022 completion date for Unit 3,” Georgia Power said on June 9 in answer to a Nuclear Newswire request for comment. “Unit 4 continues to work to an aggressive site work plan focused on maintaining margin to the regulatory approved in-service date of November 2022.”

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