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Cooling System Vibrations Delay Start of Georgia Power’s Vogtle Unit 4

by Anna

Georgia Power Co. announced on Thursday that vibrations discovered in the cooling system of its second new nuclear reactor at Plant Vogtle will cause a delay in the unit’s commercial operation. The company stated that Unit 4 is now expected to commence operations sometime in the second quarter of 2024, between April 1 and June 30. The delay is attributed to vibrations in the cooling system, similar to those experienced during the startup testing of Unit 3, which began commercial operations last summer.

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During the investigation of Unit 3’s vibrations, it was found that insufficient bracing had been installed for a pipe, causing the vibrations. Georgia Power assured that the issue with Unit 4 has been rectified, but extensive testing remains to be completed before the March 30 deadline.

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The utility estimates a potential loss of $30 million in profit for each month beyond March that Unit 4 remains inactive due to an earlier order by state utility regulators. The Georgia Public Service Commission directed that the company cannot earn additional return on equity through a construction surcharge after March 30, affecting Georgia Power’s 2.7 million customers.

If Unit 4 starts operations by June 30, the construction budget won’t be impacted, but additional construction costs of $15 million per month would be incurred if the project extends into July. In December, regulators approved a 6% rate increase to cover the remaining costs at Vogtle, expected to cost the typical residential customer an additional $8.95 per month.

The Vogtle reactors, the first new American reactors built from scratch in decades, are projected to cost Georgia Power and other owners approximately $31 billion, surpassing the initial estimate of $14 billion and a 2017 completion date. The delays and cost overruns may impact the future pursuit of nuclear power, despite its potential to address climate change concerns.

Georgia Power owns a 45.7% stake in the Vogtle reactors, with smaller shares owned by Oglethorpe Power Corp., the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, and the city of Dalton. Additionally, utilities in Florida and Alabama have contracted to purchase power generated by Vogtle.

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