ATLANTA — Construction of two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle progressed on schedule last year and more smoothly than originally, according to a report made public Monday of an independent observer.
William Jacobs, an expert in power-plant construction, filed his report Friday along with those of staff of the Public Service Commission, but they were only made public once Georgia Power Company’s trade-secret details were removed. The commission hired Jacobs with funds supplied by the company so that commissioners would have an experienced observer on site at the Waynesboro power plant.
Some glitches encountered in the early phases constructing Unit 3 haven’t been repeated as Unit 4 has begun. Jacobs said that “indicates the project is taking advantage of lessons learned from Unit 3 design and construction. Staff believes the ability of the project to internalize and adopt lessons learned could be a key positive for the project going forward.”
He also notes that the builders have made significant accomplishments — on schedule — on the non-nuclear part of the expansion, such as the Unit 3 cooling tower, offices and warehouses.
Jacobs said that the company hopes construction efficiencies will allow it to make up time lost in the engineering phase. But he said that previous schedule revisions weren’t successful in catching up. Small delays added up to big delays.
The delays are important to Georgia Power customers because they add to the project’s expense. The commission is looking to Jacobs’ advice when it decides how much of the added costs electricity customers will have to pay and how much by the company’s shareholders.
Each day of delay cost $2 million, according to an analysis submitted Friday to the commission by electrical consultant Philip Hayet.
So far, Georgia Power hasn’t asked the commission to add anything to customers’ bills beyond the original $4.8 billion budget. It acknowledges that the project is about a year behind and that many costs have risen while others, like financing, have declined.
Part of the reason for Jacobs’ skepticism about making up the lost time during construction is that two of the components planned for late in the project, the shield building and the digital instruments that operate the reactors, are cutting-edge technology, making them more prone to unforeseen hiccups.
In the end, Jacobs recommended that the commission approve the $389 million that is Georgia Power’s share of what was spent during 2013.
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