2017-05-17 / Front Page

Future at Vogtle still uncertain

By Diana Royal

The answer to the biggest questions still remains, “We don’t really know.”

Georgia Power Area Manager Cam Parker and Georgia Power Nuclear Development Manager Jeff Wilson were both on hand at the City of Waynesboro’s meeting Monday night to update the council on construction at Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4.

The duo reiterated statements made in a press release issued last week that Georgia Power and Westinghouse had reached an agreement to transition project management from Westinghouse to Southern Nuclear and Georgia Power. According to the release, the transition would take place once the current engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract is rejected in bankruptcy proceedings. Through June 3, work will continue under the interim assessment agreement that the project has been operating under since Westinghouse’s bankruptcy declaration in March.

On Monday, Wilson said that until the interim agree- ment runs out, the companies will continue working together to “hammer out a permanent agreement.”

Pressing questions continue. How will this affect customers? What will be Westinghouse’s role after the transition? Parker said one of the biggest questions they find themselves answering is, “How can you not know?”

He explained that Georgia Power was not involved in or knowledgeable of the incurring costs of the project under Westinghouse’s management; “they reached milestones and they got paid for them.” Now, Georgia Power and Southern Company have to figure out just how much money it is going to cost to complete the project, and they’ll continue to work with project co-owners (Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities) and the Georgia Public Service Commission to determine the best path forward. Parker said, “We have options: we can finish both units; we can finish one; we can finish none; or we can change the fuel source.”

“We will continue to do cost to complete studies, and once we determine what that cost is, we will make a good decision for our customers and our path forward,” Wilson said. He also commended the roughly 6,000 employees currently on site. “Work has continued through these last six weeks or so, and the workers have done a great job staying focused.”

He said customers could see an increase on their bills going forward but none of that can be determined until the final agreement is reached. He also said the completion dates of 2019 and 2020 will be bumped back but to an undetermined time.

Parker added that Westinghouse’s future involvement is still a grey area as well. “We will assume the project. Our company’s roles will evolve,” he said. “We don’t want to make the same mistakes so we are taking everything into consideration … obviously Westinghouse is very knowledgeable of the AP1000 project; they designed it. We just don’t know what their remaining role will be.”

Councilman Dick Byne said he has full faith the project will see completion. “We trust you,” he said, “and every employee that I know from there is serious about getting this built. Then they stay here; they retire here. If they doubted that, they wouldn’t still be out there now.”

Jacob Hawkins, a spokesperson for Georgia Power, said Tuesday that the company “remains in discussions with Toshiba to add structure to their payment obligation under the $3.68 billion parent guarantee.”

Information about the project can be found at www.vogtletransition.com.

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