Tuesday , 27 February 2024
BusinessNews

New Georgia nuclear reactor faces another delay due to cooling system vibrations

nuclear reactor

Georgia Power Co., the largest subsidiary of Southern Co., announced on Thursday that its second new nuclear reactor at Plant Vogtle will not start commercial operation until the second quarter of 2024, due to vibrations found in a cooling system.

nuclear reactor

What caused the vibrations?

The utility said in a filing to investors that the vibrations “were similar in nature” to those experienced during startup testing for Unit 3, which began commercial operations last summer, joining two older reactors that have stood on the site near Augusta for decades.

In that case, the utility found that a pipe vibrated during testing because construction workers had not installed enough bracing. Georgia Power said the Unit 4 problem has already been fixed, but too much testing remains to be done to meet the March 30 deadline.

The vibrations could pose a risk to the safety and performance of the reactor, as well as increase the wear and tear of the components.

What are the financial implications of the delay?

Georgia Power said it is likely to lose $30 million in profit for each month beyond March because Unit 4 is not running because of an earlier order by state utility regulators. The five members of the Georgia Public Service Commission ordered that the company cannot earn an additional return on equity through a construction surcharge levied on Georgia Power’s 2.7 million customers after March 30.

The typical residential customer has paid about $1,000 in surcharges over time to pay for financing costs. The company said its construction budget will not be affected if Unit 4 starts by June 30, but it would have to pay $15 million a month in extra construction costs if the project extends into July.

Regulators in December approved an additional 6% rate increase to pay for $7.56 billion in remaining costs at Vogtle, expected to cost the typical residential customer $8.95 a month. That is on top of the $5.42 increase that took effect when Unit 3 began operating.

How does this affect the nuclear industry?

The new Vogtle reactors are currently projected to cost Georgia Power and three other owners $31 billion, according to calculations by The Associated Press. Add in the $3.7 billion that the original contractor, Westinghouse, paid Vogtle owners to walk away from construction, and the total is nearly $35 billion.

The reactors were originally projected 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 can power 500,000 homes and businesses without releasing any carbon.

The Vogtle project is seen as a test case for the future of nuclear power in the U.S., which faces competition from cheaper natural gas and renewable energy sources. The delays and cost overruns have raised doubts about the viability of large-scale nuclear projects, while some smaller and modular designs are being developed and tested.

Written by
Jennifer Dixon

Jennifer Dixon is a passionate and professional news writer with over 15 years of experience in the media industry. She has worked as a reporter, editor, and correspondent for various news agencies such as Reuters, CNN, and BBC. She has covered a wide range of topics, from politics and business to culture and entertainment. She has a keen eye for detail and a flair for storytelling. She is also an avid reader and learner, always curious about the world and its people. Jennifer holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor's degree in English from Yale University. She is currently working as a freelance writer and consultant, helping clients with their news and content needs. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, yoga, and photography.

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