2021 was supposed to be the year of progress and a final close to the disasterous Plant Vogtle #3 and #4. But it was anything but with early 2022 looking like things have retrogressed.
Early in 2021, crews at Georgia Power’s nuclear expansion site at Plant Vogtle were struggling to find all the leaks in a pool built to hold spent, highly radioactive fuel. They added air pressure under the floor of the water-filled pool, hoping air bubbles would pinpoint flawed welds. It didn’t work. So an engineer doubled the air pressure.
The result: The pool’s steel floor plates were damaged, rendering them unusable. New ones had to be manufactured. The fixes and rechecks of the pool have taken nearly a year and cost millions of dollars. It’s been that kind of a year at Plant Vogtle.
A timeline of was provided by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, nine of which relate to bad-news 2021.
1970: Georgia Power’s Board of Directors votes to build a four-unit nuclear power facility.
1989: Plant Vogtle two reactors are fully online at a cost of $9.2 billion, far more than originally projected.
2009: Georgia Public Service Commission approves Georgia Power’s request to begin construction on two new Vogtle reactors. State lawmakers and Gov. Sonny Perdue allow Georgia Power to pass on financing costs to customers before the project is slated to be completed in 2017. Outside groups and PSC staff warn about risk of higher costs and delays.
2011: Nuclear fee for financing added to Georgia Power bills.
2012: Contractors warn of project delays. Contractors sue Vogtle’s owners for more than $900 million. Georgia Power sues back.
2013: Georgia Power announces delays and increased costs, but says no further delays are expected.
2015: The company and construction contractors sue each other over delays that add more than $3 billion to the project and three years to the completion date.
2016: Georgia Power agrees to controls on the project’s costs and to short-term profit penalties if the project isn’t completed by the end of 2020.
2017: Project manager Westinghouse files for bankruptcy protection, eliminating some cost protections for project owners and their customers. Plug is pulled on a similar nuclear project in South Carolina. Georgia Power’s parent company discloses more Vogtle delays and costs.
2018: Georgia Power announces Vogtle’s cost will increase by more than $2 billion, some of which the company said it wouldn’t try to pass on to customers. Georgia Power’s Vogtle co-owners agree to stick with the project. PSC staff express doubt about the company’s latest schedule and warn it could lead to bad decisions.
2019: The Trump administration OKs $3.7 billion in loan guarantees for Vogtle, on top of $8.3 billion in loan guarantees made during the Obama administration. State monitors and staff warn about likely higher costs and more delays.
2020: Nearly 2,000 workers are cut from the Vogtle project as the pandemic grows. In late October, both Georgia Power’s retiring CEO and his replacement express confidence in meeting the latest deadlines.
February 2021: Company reasserts its ability to meet scheduled deadlines, but discloses additional costs.
March 2021: Company discloses more quality problems on project and efforts to solve them.
April 2021: Company says first reactor, slated to be in operation in November, won’t be finished until late December.
May 2021: Company says first reactor now won’t be in operation until sometime in the first three months of 2022.
June 2021: Independent monitor for state predicts first reactor won’t be in operation until the summer of 2022, at the earliest. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announces elevated review into quality problems and how they were addressed.
July 2021: Company announces more cost increase for its share of the project and extends timetable for each reactor by another three to four months.
August 2021: NRC rules that it should increase oversight of the project as a result of quality and control problems.
October, 2021: Company announces an additional three-month delay to its schedule, citing “construction challenges” and need for comprehensive testing to ensure standards are met.
November 2021: Company announces further cost increases.