Southern’s New Nuclear Reactors May Be Delayed Until 2017, 2018

Contractors told Southern Co. that two nuclear reactors it’s building near Augusta, Georgia, may not come online until early-to-mid 2017 and 2018, about a year later than planned.

Southern, based in Atlanta, hasn’t agreed to those later start dates and maintains the reactors can begin producing power by November 2016 and November 2017, Mark Williams, a spokesman for Southern’s Georgia Power utility, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

“They are working on a schedule that is a little behind the one we’re working on,” Williams said. “We’ve not agreed to amend that and are still in discussions with them.”

The construction schedule for the $14-billion project isn’t the only point of contention between Georgia Power and Westinghouse Electric Co., maker of the reactors. The partners sued each other Nov. 1 over at least $900 million in added costs that resulted when federal regulators took six months longer than anticipated to approve reactor design changes in 2011, delaying construction.

Because of the dispute, Georgia Power, the state’s largest utility, hasn’t yet formally asked regulators to increase costs or approve a later commercial start of the first nuclear reactors to be licensed in the U.S. since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.

The Georgia utility told state regulators in an Aug. 31 report that the design certification delay would probably push the reactors seven months behind the original April 2016 and April 2017 start dates.

The latest in-service dates proposed by Westinghouse and Shaw Group, the project’s managers, were first made public when David L. McKinney, vice president of nuclear construction support for Southern Nuclear Operating Company, testified yesterday before the Georgia Public Service Commission.

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