Dalton Utilities ceases spending on nuclear power units at Plant Vogtle

·3 min read

Jul. 20—Dalton Utilities doesn't plan to spend any more money on the two new nuclear power units at Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro.

CEO Tom Bundros said the utility's board approved a motion on Monday to end its capital spending on the two new units in return for "a small" reduction in its 1.6% ownership of the units.

"The reduction of Dalton Utilities' ownership percentage will not be determined until the final cost of construction of the project has been calculated at the end of the construction," Bundros wrote in an email Tuesday.

"We will still be guaranteed a share of the electricity from the new units, albeit a slight reduction from the 1.6% ownership," he said.

Bundros said Dalton Utilities has so far spent $288 million on Units 3 and 4. When the two units were originally announced in 2009, they projected to cost $14 billion and to go online in 2016. The latest forecasts project they will cost more than $30 billion. Unit 3 is expected to go online sometime in 2023 and Unit 4 sometime in 2024.

Oglethorpe Power owns a 30% share of Plant Vogtle, MEAG Power has a 22.7% stake and Georgia Power owns 45.7%.

In August 2018 Georgia Power announced another $2.3 billion in cost overruns, triggering an agreement calling for all four owners to vote to continue the project. Dalton Utilities, Georgia Power and MEAG agreed to continue. But Oglethorpe said it would only continue if there was a cap on construction costs, which would effectively require Georgia Power to cover any additional overruns.

In September 2018 the four owners approved an agreement that would allow the smaller owners to cap their investment in return for some loss of ownership if the costs exceeded $19.2 billion.

In June of this year Oglethorpe Power announced it was exercising its option to cap its spending.

Dalton Utilities board Chairman Joe Yarbrough said Tuesday he was limited in what he could say because of legal matters.

"I can say that the board thought it was time to do this," he said, adding they were concerned about the continuing delays and cost overruns.

Bundros said by exercising this option Dalton Utilities will also see "a very insignificant reduction from our current 1.6% ownership" of Plant Vogtle Units 1 and 2, which were built in the 1970s.

Dalton Utilities is owned by the city of Dalton and its board members appointed by the City Council.

"We've got some very good board members," said City Council member Dennis Mock. "We trust them to make the right decisions for our citizens, and in this case I'm certain that they did. At some point, you have to say 'Enough.'"

City Council member Annalee Sams said the construction of the two new units at Plant Vogtle "has taken longer and cost more than any of the experts predicted."

"It is unfortunate that that is the case," she said. "But this is why agreements have clauses like the ones in this agreement, and I think the board was right to invoke this option."