ATLANTA – A nuclear power plant being built in Georgia is now projected to cost its owners more than $30 billion.
That amount doesn’t count the $3.68 billion that original contractor Westinghouse paid to the owners after going bankrupt, which would bring total spending to more than $34 billion.
Vogtle is the only nuclear plant under construction in the United States, and its costs could deter other utilities from building such plants, even though they generate electricity without releasing climate-changing carbon emissions.
The latest increase in the budget, by the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, wasn’t a surprise after lead owner Georgia Power Co. announced delays and $920 million in overruns on March 3. Georgia Power’s costs only cover the 45.7% of the plant it owns, meaning that the cooperatives and municipal utilities that own the majority of the two-reactor project later update their financial projections as well.
JEA’s share of the project is, currently, approximately $3.2 billion.
When approved in 2012, the third and fourth reactors were estimated to cost $14 billion, with the first electricity being generated in 2016. Now the third reactor is set to begin operation in March 2023, and the fourth reactor is set to begin operation in December 2023.
Atlanta-based Southern Co., which owns Georgia Power, has been charging increasing shares of its cost overruns as shareholder losses, saying it’s unlikely that the Georgia Public Service Commission will approve adding amounts to the bills of Georgia Power’s 2.6 million customers. But Oglethorpe, MEAG and Dalton don’t have shareholders, meaning customers are fully exposed to overruns.
Georgia Power’s customers, as well as some Oglethorpe customers, are already paying the costs of Vogtle.
To protect themselves, the other owners signed an agreement with Georgia Power in 2018 specifying that if costs reach a certain point, the other owners can choose to freeze their costs at that level. In exchange for paying more of the costs, Georgia Power would own a larger share of the reactors.