Report: Bechtel, Fluor interested in taking over Vogtle nuke construction

Dive Brief:

  • Construction contractors Bechtel and Fluor have shown interest in taking over construction of the Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia, according to Bloomberg
  • Bechtel is preparing a bid could have a cost estimate ready by August, anonymous sources told the news outlet, and Fluor is also preparing a proposal. Neither company nor Southern Co., owner of the Vogtle plant, commented on the Bloomberg report.
  • Earlier this month, Southern reached an agreement to take over management of Vogtle's construction, following Westinghouse's bankruptcy. But that arrangement hinges on a separate agreement being reached between SCANA Corp. and Westinghouse for the V.C. Summer nuclear plant under construction in South Carolina.

Dive Insight:

Southern, which owns Georgia Power, will still need to prove to state regulators that continuing the nuclear project makes financial sense. But if it does, engineering companies are reportedly lining up to take the job.

Bechtel's cost estimate could come in about three months, however, which could cause scheduling difficulties. Fluor is already a subcontractor at the site. Europe's Areva SA's name has also been floated, as being capable of taking on the project.

A decision on whether to complete the project is not likely to come until August, Southern CEO Tom Fanning told shareholders this week. That didn't sit well with Georgia PSC Chair Stan Wise, who told Bloomberg he was "not pleased" by the new timeline. 

Meanwhile, new troubles at Westinghouse could further complicate construction. 

Over the weekend Westinghouse issued a lockout notice to 172 union employees at its New Hampshire nuclear reactor manufacturing facility after negotiations broke down. The plant is used to manufacture parts for the South Carolina and Georgia projects, including the reactor vessel barrel and other pieces for new AP1000 plants.

Both the Vogtle and V.C. Summer projects use that advanced pressurized water reactor, which can cool the nuclear core even in the absence of operator interventions or mechanical assistance. Keeping the New Hampshire plant running is a key to both projects moving forward.

Both projects are years behind schedule and billions over budget, which pushed Westinghouse into bankruptcy this spring.

In December, regulators approved Georgia Power’s request to raise the costs of its approximately 45% share in the Vogtle project by $1.3 billion to $5.68 billion. 

The original cost of the V.C. Summer project — almost a decade ago — was about $9.8 billion. It is now about $14 billion. Last year, South Carolina regulators agreed to raise SCANA’s 55% share of the Summer project’s cost by $831 million to $7.7 billion.

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