Vogtle 4 now in commercial operation

I think that is the problem waterfell is talking about. I was in Telecommunications construction. When building a brand new switch it would normally take us a year, then in about 2 years we had it down to 6 months. Then a switch burnt down in a major urban city and they needed a new one put in. We ran 3 shifts 24 hours a day and had it in, in 1 week. The more you build the better you get and the faster things get done.

Andy

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They say this is known as Wright’s Law. Similar to Moores Law but for aircraft construction. Learning curve results in improvements in cost and timing.

Same should apply to nuclear power plants if designs can be standardized.

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And permit applications can be standardized with a time limit on approval. Some communities have put a time limit on approval of housing permits and it has improved the flow of work.

Andy

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I believe today’s Wall St Journal has summed it up best:

# A Massive U.S. Nuclear Plant Is Finally Complete. It Might Be the Last of Its Kind.

Cost overruns and delays at Southern Co.’s Plant Vogtle pushed U.S. nuclear power in a different direction

A new nuclear reactor reached commercial operation in Georgia on Monday, completing a project whose delays and sticker shock helped upend the near-term prospects for nuclear power in the U.S.
The average Georgia Power residential customer has already paid around $1,000 for the plant’s construction, which lasted seven years longer than expected, said Liz Coyle, executive director of the nonprofit consumer group Georgia Watch.
Coyle added, “Bottom line, we don’t want Georgia Power’s residential customers to have to take a risk like this ever again.”

The industry has a long history of delays and soaring costs. That combination also doomed the only other new U.S. nuclear power plant begun this century. In 2017, Scana Corp. scrapped plans to finish the half-built nuclear-power plant in South Carolina.

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Vogtle Unit 3 went into full commercial service last summer. At that time, Georgia customers started paying for the cost of construction for that plant. Now, with Unit 4 in service, customers will start paying for both plants.

Now that Unit 3 has been in service for several months, how high have the electric bills gone for residential customers? According to the Energy Information Administration, which tracks such things, the average residential price of electricity in the state of Georgia has actually gone down in the last year.

As of February, the average residential price for electricity in Georgia was 12.60 cents per kilowatt-hour. In February of 2023, the average price was 13.19 cents / kwh. That’s right. Electric rates have actually gone down 4% since Unit 3 went into service.

Overall, Georgians still pay less for electricity than the average US customer. The average in the US is 15.74 cents/kwh, compared to 12.60 cents/kwh in Georgia.

In contrast, states like California have gone heavily into solar power. I’m constantly told how inexpensive solar power has become. But the average price of residential electricity in California is 30.28 cents/kwh. That is twice the national average, and more than twice the rate in Georgia.

Now that Vogtle Unit 4 is in full service, the price of electricity will probably go up some. How much? We shall see. But I doubt it will go up anywhere close to California’s super high rates.

  • Pete
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The climate has a lot to do with that. More people but less use of power especially along the coast and Northern California. So with unable to recoup costs on how much they use they have to charge more for maintenance and other costs. Fly to San Diego, any time of the year and see how much electricity you actually use.

Andy

I actually live in San Diego county. I don’t need to go very far inland before the temperatures start to get high in the summer months. And those inland areas are where much of the growth has been in the last several years. The coastal strip has already been developed, for the most part.

  • Pete
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Well then you should know exactly how much electricity you use per month and if you are close to San Diego I am betting it is minimal.

That can’t be true, I see on this board all the time that California is losing millions of people a year.
Andy

That’s not quite right. There have been a number of previous increases. The ones references in your article were to cover the remaining cost over runs now that construction is complete. Regulators had to decide how much would be borne by the company and how much by rate payers.

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That was the idea behind the AP 1000. Standardized, pre-approved, design doesn’t translate to cost effective, apparently.

I heard an interview with Jigar Shah, head of DOE’s Loan Programs Office a while back. He was of the opinion that instead of one Vogtle, we could build seven SMRs and get same amount of power. But by the sixth plant, the costs would be predictable, he says. And at that point you could build 300 MW reactors anywhere in the country.

I tried to post an inline link to the interview, but the URL coincidently contains a string of three letters which are totally benign but the mental midgets at TMF think your poor tender minds might possibly be offended–even if you can’t see the URL itself.

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If you post the url with a @ in the middle it will probably get through and readers can be advised to copy and remove it.

Turn it into a TinyURL.

Very well. Let’s look at the residential electric rates in Georgia from when Vogtle 3 and 4 started construction. Both plants poured their first nuclear concrete in 2013 (March and November). At the end of 2013, the residential price in Georgia was reported by EIA to be 11.24 cents/kwh. The US average for that year was 12.12 cents. Therefore, Georgia’s price was 92.7% the price of the US average.

End of year residential price, cents/kwh
Year     GA     US    GA/US
2013   11.24  12.12   0.927
2014   11.57  12.50   0.926
2015   11.48  12.67   0.906
2016   11.41  12.55   0.909
2017   11.80  12.90   0.915
2018   11.39  12.89   0.884
2019   11.44  13.04   0.877
2020   11.82  13.20   0.895
2021   12.60  13.72   0.918
2022   14.02  15.12   0.927
2023   13.73  15.98   0.859
2024*  12.60  15.74   0.801
* As of February

I still don’t see where Georgia’s price for electricity went way up because of the Vogtle 3 and 4 costs. Georgia has remained below the national average, at around 90% during the construction period. I don’t know why 2023 saw a sudden dip in the relative price. Perhaps something to do with the price of natural gas. Whatever, the price of electricity in Georgia has not skyrocketed (so far) due to Vogtle, despite what the critics say. We’ll see how things compare later this year and next year to see how the Unit 4 commercial status affects things.

Prices from Here. If you are interested, click on the Previous Issues button near the top, and choose February for the end-of-year numbers for the previous year, then look at Table 5.6.B. There were some small adjustments from year to year, but I just looked at the latest numbers for each February.

  • Pete
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The electricity rate changes for Georgians have not yet been determined and implemented by the Georgia publec utilities commission. We need to watch in the coming months/years what rate increases will be approved to pay-off the ~$30 billion cost over the next 30 years.

Here is why Georgia’s prices for electicity is going up:

State regulators pass along $7.6B tab to ratepayers for Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle

DECEMBER 19, 2023

Georgia Power ratepayers will be responsible for a $7.6 billion bill for the construction of two nuclear reactors built during the long-delayed expansion at Plant Vogtle located southeast of Augusta.

The financial agreement for the nuclear project boondoggle was approved Tuesday by the Georgia Public Service Commission. It calls for the utility company to cover at least $2.6 billion of an expected $10 billion in construction and capital costs spent on the Vogtle project. State regulators signed off on terms outlined in a stipulated agreement reached in August between Georgia Power, PSC advocacy staff, the Georgia Association of Manufacturers and consumer and watchdog advocacy organization Georgia Watch, and the Georgia Interfaith Power & Light and Partnership for Southern Equity.

Vogtle has remained a major source of contention as costs ballooned to $35 billion, more than double the price initially forecast for a project that’s taken 14 years to complete. The two Vogtle units are the first nuclear reactors to be built in the United States in more than 30 years, and is the latest in a series of rate increases Georgia Power customers will continue to bear in the coming months.

Georgia Power officials boast that Vogtle is a cleaner energy source compared to fossil fuels that will bolster the electric grid for decades to come by providing power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.

The average Georgia Power homeowner has been paying an extra $5 per month since Unit 3 began operating this summer and will see an estimated extra $9 each month once Unit 4 comes online. Georgia Power officials predict that the final reactor will be fully operational within the first several months of 2024.

https://georgiarecorder.com/2023/12/19/state-regulators-pass-along-7-6b-tab-to-ratepayers-for-georgia-powers-plant-vogtle/#:~:text=The%20average%20Georgia%20Power%20homeowner%20has%20been,within%20the%20first%20several%20months%20of%202024.

“The Vogtle 3 & 4 nuclear expansion project represents a long-term investment for our 2.7 million customers and Georgia, providing clean, safe, reliable, and emission-free energy for decades to come,” Georgia Power said in a statement. “Throughout the Vogtle project, the Georgia PSC has thoroughly evaluated all costs through an open and transparent review process.

“We believe this decision by the Georgia PSC acknowledges the perspectives of all parties involved and takes a balanced approach that recognizes the value of this long-term energy asset for the state of Georgia and affordability needs for customers,” the company said.

Commission Chairman Jason Shaw said Tuesday that it was a positive sign to have several intervening groups sign a reasonable deal that represents the conclusion to a long and complicated process.

The commissioners noted that the final agreement follows 29 construction monitoring reports dating back to 2009, along with tens of thousands of publicly filed documents and public hearings held before the five-member commission.

“After years of hard work, we can celebrate that Georgia has access to brand new nuclear facilities that will provide carbon-free energy over the next 60-80 years,” Shaw said. “Georgia has proven once again that it is a leader in clean energy and will be better able to meet the energy capacity needs for our rapidly growing state.”

Many critics have registered opposition to Georgia Power’s exorbitant profits and the continued slamming of its customers with higher electricity bills. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is among those who have been critical of having homeowners and small business owners pay a much larger share for Vogtle than large industrial companies. Overall, the larger companies have only contributed about 10% of the costs after repeated hikes to monthly bills.

According to the Southern Alliance, the stipulation ignores other opportunities for clean energy generation and ways to protect ratepayers from similar snakebit projects like Vogtle in the future.

“The precedent for this was set with another negotiated settlement in 2021. Back then, Georgia Power argued that ‘equal’ allocation was the best they could do without performing a cost-of-service study,” the Southern Alliance said in a news release Tuesday. “That might have been excusable for the initial allocation but it’s dereliction-of-duty that Georgia Power didn’t perform the cost-of-service study two years later. And by letting them get away with it, the PSC is as guilty as they are.”

As part of the settlement, Georgia Power agreed to about a 50% expansion of energy efficiency programs and also offered up to 96,000 additional low-income seniors to participate in a program that would reduce their monthly bills by an average of $33.50.

Construction on Vogtle has been severely delayed by technical issues, worker shortages, a strike, and the bankruptcy of its original contractor Westinghouse Electric Co. in 2017. The final cost of Vogtle includes $3.7 billion owed by Westinghouse.

https://georgiarecorder.com/2023/12/19/state-regulators-pass-along-7-6b-tab-to-ratepayers-for-georgia-powers-plant-vogtle/#:~:text=The%20average%20Georgia%20Power%20homeowner%20has%20been,within%20the%20first%20several%20months%20of%202024.

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No one said they went way up. The point of disagreement seemed to be if rates had been raised at all. That said, I think you went through too much work in your post. We don’t have to guess how much rates did or did not go up (or at least not guess much) because the Georgia Public Service Commission is public entity and its decision making is a matter of public record. I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but I quickly firing up Google, I found [this information from 2021] from the PSC (https://psc.ga.gov/search/facts-document/?documentId=187820). There is certainly something more current but this will do.

From the document (emphasis added):

For a typical residential customer Staff has estimated an average of $880 will be collected through the NCCR tariff over the construction period. This $880 represents an additional $432 during the construction period compared to $448 had the Units been completed on original certification schedule of April 2016 / 2017…

…For the delay period through June 30, 2021, ratepayers have paid an additional $1.5 billion in NCCR tariff revenues and $675 million in fuel replacement cost for a total of approximately $2.2 billion. This $2.2 billion represents the direct impact on ratepayers

Keep in mind there have been additional rate increases since then, so @Goofyhoofy’s quote stating that the typical household will have paid $1000 before receiving any power sounds accurate.

Couple other interesting things. They did a comparison with combined cycle gas plants:

In summary, the Vogtle 3 & 4 revenue requirement exceeds the alternative combined cycle resource in every year and ratepayers will pay an additional $33 billion over the Units’ lifecycle (construction period and 60-year operating life) versus alternative combined cycle generation under (moderate gas prices) and zero carbon dioxide emission price scenario.

Added note: Vogtle 3&4 was much more expensive than combined cycle natural gas in every scenario they looked at.

They calculated the revenue requirement was $150 per megawatt-hour (Jigar Shah in the interview I couldn’t link to above estimated $180 per megawatt-hour, probably reflecting subsequent rate . He’s trying to revive nuclear in the US, btw).

And even at the end of 2021, the PSC calculated the costs to complete and operate the project were so high that it was almost–but not quite–worth it to abandon the project and start over with natural gas. “Surprising” how small the benefit to complete it was, is how they put it.

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syke6- I seem to remember you want to spend $20 trillion on wind and solar over on the METAR board. But if a first-in-a-long-while US nuclear project goes over budget, then it was a horrible idea that should never have been.

Meanwhile…

  • Pete

Straw man much? I never said it was a bad idea. I just quoted publicly available information of the financial analysis of the project, which for some reason happened to a very, very different conclusion from your analysis. But I think the guys who run the numbers for living might have some insights worth listening to.

FWIW, in the analysis I posted, they compared Vogtle with zero carbon combined cycle natural gas. The alternative wasn’t more greenhouse gas producing.

And while I’ve got you here, since I know you have read at least some of my posts, you might wish to go back and see what I’ve said about new nuclear and climate targets (Hint: I’ve said meeting climate targets without new nuclear would be almost impossible). So your go-to Mauna Loa chart wasn’t the zinger you thought it would be.

That said, I find it good policy to always admit and state the obvious. So I will: New nuclear in the US is extremely expensive. Your table of costs in Georgia doesn’t change that fact. Also, I recently made I post about how new nuclear might possibly become more cost effective. If you think nuclear is already cost effective as you seem to be suggesting with your table, then it is no interest to you. But somebody else might find it interesting.

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Where are there any zero carbon CCGT power plants?

The only capture and storage of CO2 I am familiar with, and currently in operation, is with enhanced oil recovery processes. I wouldn’t call that zero carbon, because in the end, more hydrocarbons are extracted from the ground, and eventually burned to produce even more CO2.

Do you think the Georgia Public Service Commission knows exactly how much that would cost? For something that doesn’t even exist on any large scale?

  • Pete