The Trump administration is set to give $3.7 billion in loan guarantees to help Southern Co. and its partners finish the long-delayed expansion of the Alvin W. Vogtle Nuclear Plant in Georgia.
The aid announcement is expected to come March 22, when U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry will be delivering remarks alongside Southern Chairman, President and CEO Tom Fanning and Southern subsidiary Georgia Power Co. Chairman, President and CEO Paul Bowers, according to a March 20 report by Bloomberg News. Georgia Power is the largest single owner of both the operating Vogtle plant and two-unit expansion. The loan guarantees would provide significant relief for the project as Vogtle's total cost-to-completion estimates have increased to more than $30 billion.
Southern management said the Vogtle expansion is about three-fourths complete and could come online sooner than expected. Units 3 and 4 are slated to come online in November 2021 and November 2022, respectively, but the reactors could be operational as soon as April 2021 and April 2022. Still, Fanning said there is more work to be done before management can be completely confident in an early operation date.
"We think if we average 110,000 hours per week, we can hit the November schedule," Fanning said during the company's fourth-quarter 2018 earnings call Feb. 20. "Hitting anything better than that improves our likelihood of gaining margin to November. That's why we are targeting [140,000 hours per week] or even above for the remainder of the period of [February 2019 to February 2020]. These numbers, we believe, are consistent with the April schedule that we have in place."
In February, the Georgia Public Service Commission also signed off on $526.4 million in construction costs Georgia Power spent on Vogtle units 3 and 4 in its most recent semiannual spending report. Regulators also agreed to give the company more time to file its next report.
Oglethorpe Power Corp., the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and the city of Dalton (Ga.) Utilities are co-owners of the Vogtle plant along with Georgia Power. Oglethorpe, which owns a 30% share of Vogtle, took an advance of $585 million from the DOE earlier in March from a $3.1 billion loan guarantee agreement.