THOMASVILLE — A nuclear plant expansion hit with delays and massive cost overruns is expected to be ready soon, a state member of the Public Service Commission said.

The nation’s only nuclear reactors currently under construction are at Plant Vogtle, outside of Waynesboro, where work on units 3 and 4 is progressing, said Tim Echols.

High functional testing has been completed, he said, which means everything has been brought up to full temperature and full pressure.

Unit 3 could be ready for commercial operation for the second quarter of 2022, he said.

“We’ve had some difficulties with the entire plant but 3 is ready to go,” Echols said. “We’re going to run it for a while before we put it into commercial operation.”

Vogtle’s two additional units originally scheduled to be ready in 2016 and 2017. The original cost also has gone from $14 billion to $25 billion. 

The parent company that owned the contractor, Westinghouse Electric, declared bankruptcy for Westinghouse during construction of units 3 and 4. But that bankruptcy, Echols said, was only for the U.S. operations of Westinghouse and was designed for parent company Toshiba to get out of the contract.  

“So Toshiba, in order to get out of our contract, the sole purpose of getting out of the contract, bankrupted Westinghouse in the U.S. Not the China, not the Europe, Westinghouse — just the LLC in America,” he said. 

A new contract had to be signed, as opposed to the original fixed and firm deal that protected rate payers, Echols said. 

“That has caused us great difficulty financially,” he said. “We’re still within what we promised consumers. We promised Georgia Power rate payers 8-12% increase, and we’re still at about  an projected 11% increase.”

The cities of Cairo and Thomasville are participants in MEAG, which is a part owner of the reactors. Though the construction and completion will be much more than originally estimated, Echols said having units 3 and 4 come online will be a great deal for its customers, calling it a “five-generation asset".

“We’re going to finish this plant,” he said. “The second plant is going much easier than the first one. I don’t regret us doing this. Yeah, I wish it was cheaper. But with a carbon tax coming in America, a war on fossil fuels, those nuclear plants will provide great service.” 

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