- Georgia Power announced Wednesday that it and three other Plant Vogtle 3 & 4 cooling tower project owners — Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities — have reached an agreement that will see construction continue on the $25 billion Waynesboro, Georgia, expansion, according to National Public Radio station WABE. The future of the project was in question in the wake of $2.3 billion in extra costs, bringing the total price tag to approximately twice owners' original estimates.
- The agreement between the four companies shifts more financial risk to Georgia Power, which also stands to benefit the most — 60.7% of cost savings — if the project is completed under the latest budget. Georgia Power, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, will be responsible for 55.7% of future cost overruns between $800 million and $1.6 billion and 65.7% of extra costs between $1.6 billion and $2.1 billion. If costs exceed $2.1 billion, co-owners could sell their interest and transfer their costs to Georgia Power.
- The Vogtle 3 & 4 project is, according to Georgia Power, the biggest job-creating construction project in Georgia, employing 7,000 workers. The project's former lead contractor, Westinghouse, filed for bankruptcy in March 2017, prompting Southern Nuclear, a subsidiary of Georgia Power's parent Southern Co., to take over. Bechtel is the construction manager overseeing day-to-day activities. The Vogtle towers are the first nuclear units to be built in the U.S. in three decades.
In the construction industry, building nuclear facilities is a highly specialized segment and requires a team of professionals familiar with the process. This is not only to increase the odds of the project being completed according to schedule and on budget, but also to ensure the safe operations of plants after construction is complete.
Bechtel is one of those specialists, and according to the company, it has built more than half of the nuclear power plants in the U.S. Bechtel, with an estimated 2,200 nuclear specialists at its disposal, has also been involved with some level of engineering or construction at 80% of the nuclear facilities in the U.S. and 150 plants around the world.
Fluor, which was involved in the Vogtle project when Westinghouse was lead contractor, also has a nuclear power construction division and claims to have had a hand in the design, engineering or construction services for 20 U.S. plants.
These projects can mean big bucks for contractors and their employees, but the number of nuclear power plants being planned and built is few and far between. That could change, however, as nuclear plants become safer, power companies consider smaller units and the overall desire to reduce dependency on oil and gas grows.