Georgia nuclear project reports more than 800 COVID-19 cases to date

Georgia Power has for months wrestled with the spread of coronavirus at its massive nuclear expansion project at Plant Vogtle, south of Augusta. More than 800 workers have tested positive, according to the company.

Georgia Power’s massive nuclear expansion project has had more than 800 workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus pandemic began.

In a new filing with the state, Georgia’s largest electric provider said it has weathered another wave of cases at the Plant Vogtle project underway south of Augusta, but that the number of new cases is receding again.

Georgia Power said more than 700 of the workers who tested positive are now eligible to return to work, and that there were 109 active confirmed cases as of Friday. A spokesman declined to disclose if any workers have been hospitalized or died, citing privacy laws.

About 7,000 workers are stationed on site after 2,000 were sent home in April in hopes of reducing the virus’ spread and dealing with growing absenteeism.

The virus has been blamed for further slowing the project, which is already years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. Independent monitors for the Georgia Public Service Commission warned in June that even without considering the impact of COVID-19, Vogtle’s costs will rise by another $1 billion and the project is “highly unlikely” to have its two new reactors in service by November 2021 and November 2022, respectively.

In a filing made public Monday, the company said it continues to plan for the scheduled operation dates.

But Georgia Power said it recognizes “that the project may continue to experience challenges and that unanticipated events, or failure to meet the current plan, may require further revision to the site work plan, capital cost forecast, and/or project schedule.”

In a July filing, the company said costs for its share of the project are expected to be $149 million over current forecasts and that it later may ask state regulators to charge customers for the increase.

After coronavirus cases rose early in the pandemic, the project went several weeks without any new confirmed cases on the site, according to the company’s latest filing. But the confirmed cases grew again. Then, in recent weeks, “the site has followed the general trend in the region with a decline in the number of active cases.”