Utilities reach deal on Plant Vogtle

Construction will continue at Plant Vogtle, the lone nuclear project being built in the United States, after the utility partners agreed on a deal on how to handle the reactors' future costs.

Southern Co. said late this afternoon the project would go forward. For days, Vogtle hung in the balance because one of the business partners, Oglethorpe Power Corp., did not want to continue without a cap on construction costs.

"We are all pleased to have reached an agreement and to move forward with the construction of Vogtle Units 3 & 4 which is critical to Georgia's energy future," the co-owners said in a statement. "While there have been and will be challenges throughout this process, we remain committed to a constructive relationship with each other and are focused on reducing project risk and fulfilling our commitment to our member-consumers."

Vogtle needed at least 90 percent of the partners to agree to go forward after its costs recently jumped an additional $2.3 billion. The project would collapse if Oglethorpe, a 30 percent owner, walked away.

Vogtle was years behind schedule and had spent billions above the original forecast budget when its main contractor went bankrupt last year. Southern's nuclear unit and Georgia Power Co. took over as the project's main contractors after that.

Georgia Power owns 45.7 percent of the project. Besides Oglethorpe, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Dalton Utilities are also utility partners in the project.

Southern announced in August that Vogtle's costs had risen by $2.3 billion but said Georgia Power would absorb its share of the costs. Both triggered the remaining owners to reassess and vote whether they wanted to finish the reactors.

The move also reignited Oglethorpe's discussions of a cost cap because Georgia Power and Southern have shareholders who can absorb the cost increases, but the public power companies do not have the same buffer.

Any budget increase must flow directly to their customers on their utility bills.

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