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Utility: Building schedule slips on Ga. nuke plant

Associated Press Modified: May 9, 2012 at 4:45 pm •  Published: May 9, 2012

ATLANTA (AP) — The timeline for building a first-of-its-kind nuclear plant in Georgia has slipped seven months, while the Southern Co. faces a dispute over who should pay for $400 million in unanticipated costs, utility executives said Wednesday.

Southern Co. initially planned on finishing the construction of its first new reactor at Plant Vogtle near Augusta by April 2016 and complete work on the second reactor a year later. But that schedule has slipped to November 2016 for the first reactor and a year later for the second, said David McKinney, a vice president for nuclear construction for the Southern Co.

"We do not currently believe that the April dates are achievable," McKinney testified during a hearing held by the state's Public Service Commission, which regulates the utility.

The nuclear industry has hoped that the Plant Vogtle expansion will prove it can build new plants without the endemic delays that caused big increases in cost of borrowing money to build, a major problem during the last round of nuclear construction. Under state law, the cost of building the new reactors will be paid by the nearly 2.4 million customers of Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power.

State utility regulators have authorized Georgia Power to spend just over $6.1 billion as its share of the estimated $14 billion construction project. But there is an increasing risk that Southern Co. will need to increase its budget.

The companies designing and building the power plant — The Shaw Group Inc. and Westinghouse Electric Co. — want Georgia Power to pay an additional $400 million to cover increased costs blamed on design changes and delays, according to the utility's financial filings.

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