With Georgia Power's two new nuclear units at Plant Vogtle now approaching their respective commercial operation dates, the forecast schedules of the project team and its state monitors are finally coming into alignment.

In testimony submitted to the state Public Service Commission on Jan. 3, for the first time in years, independent construction monitors basically agreed with Georgia Power's estimated commercial operation dates (COD) for Unit 3 of March 2023.

Testimony submitted by William Jacobs and Stephen Roetger noted "improved schedule performance" and less slippage during the period of July through December 2022, as compared to the previous six months.

Specifically regarding Southern Nuclear Co.'s (SNC) project COD date of March 31 for Unit 3, 2023, Jacobs and Roetger stated, "We believe this is a reasonable forecast."

The monitors noted one particular issue that could delay Unit 3's commercial operation date.

"Many of the systems and components have yet to be tested on the secondary plant, the steam and generating side of the plant, which is a design that has yet to be operated at power," they testified. 

Jacobs, who is the state construction monitor and PSC staff team lead, noted that while "the primary (nuclear) side of the plant is essentially identical to the four units in China that are operating well, the secondary plant is a unique design that has never been subject to the pressure and temperature conditions experienced when the plant is in operation at full power."

For this reason, he stated, "There is a strong likelihood that equipment and design issues will be identified during the initial operation of this equipment."

Monitors also reported better performance related to Unit 4, but disagree slightly with the project owner's current COD estimate of Dec. 31.

"Schedule adherence is better on Unit 4 and milestone dates have not been slipping month per month" as they were on Unit 3 when it was at the same stage of construction.

And while noting that SNC should be able to achieve the Unit 4 COD of Dec. 31, the monitors stated that "the first quarter of 2024 is a reasonable possibility for Unit 4."

Georgia Power Reaches Settlement 

Last June, Vogtle project co-owners Oglethorpe Power, which owns a 30% share, and MEAG Power, with a 22.7% stake, filed suit against Georgia Power based on an earlier agreement that provided the two utilities with a cost cap above a certain threshold.

In October, Georgia Power reached a settlement to pay MEAG Power "at least $76 million" according to media reports.