Vogtle nuclear expansion project on track despite COVID-19

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COVID-19 is impacting the cost and workforce schedule for the expansion of Units 3 and 4 at the Vogtle nuclear plant in the US, but Georgia Power says that it is still planning to put the project into service by November 2021.

In a filing with the Georgia Public Service Commission (GPSC), the lead owner for the only US nuclear construction project ongoing testified that it has incurred about $19 million in direct costs related to continuing work during the pandemic.

This cost is less than three percent of the overall $701 million in construction and capital expenditures between January 1 and July 30, according to the testimony.

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“While the pandemic continues to impact the project, based on current information and projections, we believe that the project will be able to bring Unit 3 and Unit 4 online by the regulatory-approved in-service dates of November 2021 and November 2022,” states Jeremiah Haswell, the Georgia Power project oversight director for the Vogtle expansion, in the filing with the GPSC.

Georgia Power leads a team of four utilities providing funding for the estimated $25 billion expansion. The others are Dalton Utilities, Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Oglethorpe Power.

The state filing also underlined numerous milestones reached during the latest construction reporting phase. The update reported that construction is 94% complete on Unit 3 as it moves toward an expected November 2021 in-service date.

Last week, crews completed cold hydro testing on Unit 3. The next major move is hot functional testing sometime in March 2021, the last critical step before fuel loading and in-service commissioning. Fuel loading could happen as early as April.

Unit 4 is expected to go into service exactly one year after its twin reactor.

The Waynesboro Georgia site will generate more than 2,200MW of carbon-free capacity once online. The plant houses two Westinghouse AP-1000 (advanced passive) nuclear reactors.

Bechtel is the lead engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor on the project. Vogtle 3 and 4 expansion has overcome numerous roadblocks along its nearly decade-long path, including cost overruns and the bankruptcy of initial EPC contractor Westinghouse.

Nuclear energy currently accounts for about 19% of the U.S. electricity capacity mix and more than half of domestic carbon-free power.

Georgia Power is a utility owned by Southern Co.

Originally published by power-eng.com

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