On a positive note, Jacobs and Roetger state that recent changes by CB&I and Westinghouse to the project's management team are "clearly positive" and that they have observed "an attitude of increased cooperation and focus on the critical-path schedule activities."
In an email response to ENR, CB&I spokeswoman Gentry Brann said "certain changes to the management team" were the "result of CB&I's acquisition of Shaw" in 2012. In June, the contractor named John Simmons as project director.
Other issues could affect Vogtle's overall cost and schedule. Litigation between the owner and the contractor over $900 million in disputed costs is ongoing, says Georgia Power spokesman Mark Williams. To date, Hayet noted, the utility has not included a price for this litigation in its cost estimates.
Also, Southern spokesman Tim Leljedal said the utility is still negotiating with the U.S. Dept. of Energy over terms for $8.33 billion in federal loan guarantees that were first announced in 2010.
In recent testimony to PSC, utility executives Kyle Leach of Georgia Power and David McKinney of Southern stated, "In the event that DOE does not issue a loan guarantee, Congress takes action to rescind the DOE loan program or the company determines that the final terms and conditions of the loan guarantees ... are not in the best interest of its customers, the company expects to finance construction ... through more traditional means, such as security issuances and term loans."
The pending and likely future budget increases may be fueling heightened political concerns as well. State Rep. Jeff Chapman (R) is sponsoring HB 267, a bill that would require the utilities to use the current $6.1-billion capital cost for calculating their future profits on the plant’s operation—thus limiting the amount they can charge customers.
Asked about the legislation, Georgia Power's Williams would only note that the bill failed to make it out of committee during last year’s session. But Chapman says recent developments have brought greater attention to the issue.
"Concern throughout the legislative and executive branch about Vogtle costs is growing," Chapman told ENR via email. He cited a recent agreement by Southern Co. subsidiary ">Mississippi Power to absorb cost escalations on its ongoing Kemper County powerplant project as a parallel to the situation with Vogtle.
Chapman added: "The fact that Mississippi Power agreed to eat the cost overruns ... was a watershed moment for many in our legislature, who rightly asked, 'If it's good for Mississippi, why isn't it good for Georgia?'"
According to the ">Associated Press, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) seemed to echo those sentiments recently when he stated that he thought it would be a "good solution" if Southern Co. absorbed more of Vogtle’s additional expenses.