The engineering-procurement-construction contractor building the two-unit, 2,200-MW Vogtle nuclear expansion project in Georgia said March 4 that it "will continue to work with" the project's co-owners on ways to minimize the time it takes to complete the units.

Lead co-owner Georgia Power told the Georgia Public Service Commission on February 28 that it now expects the two new nuclear units to begin commercial operation in the fourth quarter of 2017 and the fourth quarter of 2018, respectively. Originally, the new Vogtle units were set to come online in April 2016 and April 2017.

The utility also asked the PSC to increase the authorized cost of the utility's 45.7% share of the project by $381 million, to $4.8 billion. Oglethorpe Power, Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, and the municipal utility in Dalton, Ga., own the balance of the project.

Both the extended schedule and the higher capital cost of the project are "associated with the time required to obtain Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval of the plant design, the translation of the certified design into approved construction drawings, and the rate of production of certain structures comprising the nuclear island," Georgia Power said in its filing.

It noted that "commercial responsibility for the extended schedule remains in dispute, and the EPC agreement contemplates a construction duration that is shorter than that reflected in the extension to fourth quarter 2017 and 2018." Georgia Power said it will engage with contractor Westinghouse/Stone & Webster "to determine whether a shorter construction duration is possible."

Gentry Brann, a vice president at Chicago Bridge & Iron Co., which on February 13 acquired Shaw Group and its Stone & Webster subsidiary, declined to comment on specifics but added, "We do not believe the complaint will impact the construction activities at the Vogtle units 3 and 4 site."