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Vibrations in cooling system mean new Georgia nuclear reactor will again be delayed

Georgia Power Co. announced on Thursday that delays in the startup of its second new nuclear reactor, Unit 4 at Plant Vogtle, are attributed to vibrations found in its cooling system. The commercial operation for Unit 4 is now anticipated to commence in the second quarter of 2024, between April 1 and June 30. This delay was caused by vibrations similar to those experienced during startup testing for Unit 3, which began operations last summer. The issue in Unit 4 has been addressed, but additional testing is required, pushing the startup beyond the March 30 deadline. Georgia Power estimates a potential loss of $30 million in profit for each month beyond March that Unit 4 is not operational due to an earlier order by state utility regulators. The Georgia Public Service Commission mandated that the company cannot earn additional return on equity through a construction surcharge after March 30. The construction budget will remain unaffected if Unit 4 starts by June 30, but additional construction costs of $15 million per month would be incurred if the project extends into July. Regulators approved a 6% rate increase in December to cover $7.56 billion in remaining costs at Vogtle, expected to cost the typical residential customer $8.95 a month. This is in addition to the $5.42 increase that took effect when Unit 3 began operating. The new Vogtle reactors are projected to cost Georgia Power and three other owners $31 billion, with the total nearing $35 billion when including the $3.7 billion paid by the original contractor Westinghouse to walk away from construction. The reactors were initially expected to cost $14 billion and be completed by 2017. Units 3 and 4 are the first new American reactors built from scratch in decades, each capable of powering 500,000 homes and businesses without emitting carbon. While government officials and some utilities are considering nuclear power to combat climate change, the high cost of Vogtle may discourage further pursuit of nuclear power. Georgia Power owns 45.7% of the reactors, with smaller shares owned by Oglethorpe Power Corp., the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, and the city of Dalton. Additionally, some Florida and Alabama utilities have contracted to buy Vogtle’s power.

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