(Refiles to make headline read 'says' instead of 'say')
By Tom Hals
WILMINGTON, Del., June 15 A clean energy group
that has opposed a nuclear project in Georgia estimates the
plant's cost has soared to $29 billion in the wake of the
bankruptcy of half-finished plant's contractor, Westinghouse
Electric Co, a unit of Toshiba Corp
Sara Barczak of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
(SACE) said that the new estimate adds $9 billion to its
projected cost of the Vogtle project, which has been beset by
delays and billions of dollars of cost overruns.
Westinghouse and Southern Co, the utility that owns
nearly half the project, did not immediately respond to a
request for comment.
SACE based its latest estimate on a report last week by two
utility consultants to the Georgia Public Service Commission,
which regulates utilities including Southern Co's Georgia Power.
The report is based on a scenario in which the project comes
online in 2022, three years behind its current schedule, and the
bankruptcy layers on costs.
Southern Co, which is leading a consortium of utility owners
of Vogtle, has said it is evaluating whether it will continue
with construction of the project.
SACE's latest estimate puts increased pressure on Georgia's
utility regulator to ensure Southern Co cannot pass along future
cost overruns to ratepayers.
A spokesman for the Georgia PSC did not immediately respond
to a request for comment.
SACE has warned since Vogtle was approved in 2009 that
Southern Co was underestimating the time and cost of the
project. Vogtle was originally expected to begin producing power
in April 2016 and cost $14 billion.
Vogtle was meant to be a showcase for Westinghouse and part
of a U.S. nuclear renaissance, by has been dogged by poor
quality work and disputes with subcontractors, among other
Toshiba has guaranteed Westinghouse's work on the project
and on Saturday said it will begin making $3.68 billion in
payments to the utility partners for failure to complete the
The expert reports also spell out the failure of
Westinghouse to improve productivity, despite hiring consultants
in 2016 to speed up the project. Over the past year four core
activities fell an average of 325 days further behind schedule,
according to the report.
SACE's Barczak said she felt the Vogtle project would not be
completed in wake of the latest expert reports. "But the unknown
question is how long is it going to take for Southern Co to pull
the plug," she said.
(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by
Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool)