With Vogtle units done, Southern Nuclear announces executive changes

Stephen Kuczynski, who has led Southern Nuclear for more than 12 years, will be succeeded by the company’s president, Peter Sena, next month
Steve Kuczynski, left, and Pete Sena, of Southern Nuclear. (PRNewswire)

Credit: PRNewswire

Credit: PRNewswire

Steve Kuczynski, left, and Pete Sena, of Southern Nuclear. (PRNewswire)

Just two weeks after Southern Company placed the second of two long-delayed reactors at Plant Vogtle into service, the leader of the utility giant’s nuclear division announced Monday he will retire at the end of next month.

Stephen Kuczynski, who has led Southern Nuclear as its chairman and CEO for more than 12 years, will retire from both roles effective June 28, the company said.

Kuczynski will be succeeded by Southern Nuclear’s current president, Peter Sena, who was selected by the company’s board. The Birmingham-based subsidiary manages eight nuclear units in Georgia and Alabama.

Kuczynski took the reins at Southern Nuclear in 2011, not long after construction began on the two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in east Georgia near Augusta.

The first new Vogtle unit was supposed to be finished in 2016, with the second entering service a year later. At the outset, it was projected the two new reactors — the first new commercial nuclear units built from scratch in the U.S. in more than 30 years — would cost its four co-owners $14 billion to complete.

But construction quality problems, management missteps, the COVID-19 pandemic and a host of other issues led to cascading delays and cost overruns. Ultimately, the Vogtle expansion reached the finish line more than seven years behind schedule, with a total price tag of more than $35 billion. The first new reactor, Unit 3, entered commercial service last July, and its twin Unit 4, came online at the end of April.

From left, views of Units 3 and 4 at Plant Vogtle, in Burke County near Waynesboro, Georgia, on Monday, July 31, 2023. (Arvin Temkar/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

Combined, the two units produce enough electricity to power 1 million homes, without adding heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

But customers of Georgia Power — the Southern Company subsidiary that serves 2.7 million Georgians — have paid handily for the units’ carbon-free electricity.

Long before the reactors provided any electrons, the average Georgia Power ratepayer had paid roughly $1,000 to finance the project. Now that the units are online, the average residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month will see a cumulative increase of $14.38 in their monthly bills. Part of that increase — about $5.42 — kicked in last year after Unit 3 entered service. The rest — roughly $9 — will show up on customer’s May bills.

In 2023, Kuczynski was paid about $5.5 million in salary, stock awards and other compensation, Southern Company filings show. Certain milestones at Plant Vogtle are part of his compensation package. It was not immediately clear how much Sena will make in his new role.

In a statement, Kuczynski said it was the privilege of his career “to work alongside the leaders of Southern Company, the greater nuclear industry, and the nuclear professionals at Southern Nuclear to demonstrate the viability and importance of nuclear power.”

He added that the Vogtle expansion’s completion proved “the deployment of new nuclear is achievable.”

Chris Womack, the chairman, president and CEO of Southern Company, praised Kuczynski for guiding the Vogtle project to completion.

“It’s no secret that Stephen led our company through a number of challenges, but he never wavered; understanding the importance of the Vogtle expansion project, which is now delivering clean energy to Georgia homes and businesses,” Womack said in a statement.

Kuczynski’s replacement, Sena, has been with the company since 2019 and assumed the role of president at Southern Nuclear last year.

Sena said in a statement that he looks forward to building on Southern Nuclear’s legacy of “running our plants safely and reliably, working day-in and day-out to serve our communities with 24/7 carbon-free power.”