Sep 25, 2018

Georgia nuclear power project on the brink

Vogtle, a 2-unit nuclear power plant located in Georgia. Photo: Pallava Bagla/Corbis via Getty Images

A troubled, over-budget project to build two new nuclear reactors in Georgia is still alive after a high-stakes vote by co-owners yesterday — but maybe for not much longer.

What to watch: The parties have set a deadline of 5 p.m. today to try and hash out a deal.

Why it matters: It's the only commercial reactor project currently under construction in the country, and as we noted yesterday, its demise would be a further blow to the industry that has seen its hopes for a U.S. renaissance fade.

Where it stands: Last night Oglethorpe Power announced a "conditional vote" to move forward with ongoing construction of the Southern Company-led expansion of the Vogtle site.

  • The company statement came hours after the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia announced its continued support, joining previous moves by Southern subsidiary Georgia Power and Dalton Utilities (which has a small share).

Yes, but: Oglethorpe, which has a 30% stake in the project, is demanding steps to limit its exposure to future cost overruns, per their statement.

  • The budget for the project, which is years behind schedule, recently swelled by another $2.3 billion and now stands at roughly $27 billion.
  • One scenario, they said, is a "cap at the current project budget (inclusive of the $2.3 billion budget increase) but allows for an additional $800 million to be added to the contingency, raising it to $1.6 billion."

The intrigue: Oglethorpe CEO Mike Smith says in their statement, "Southern Company should be willing to bear further risk of [Southern Nuclear Corp.'s] missed budgets, not our members."

But close to midnight yesterday, Southern subsidiary Georgia Power, which has a nearly 46% share of the project, balked at Oglethorpe's demands. Oglethorpe has "demanded concessions to avoid obligations that it undertook when it became an owner of the project," the company said in a separate statement.

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