The 1 Thing to Watch at Southern Company in 2020

The Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, also known as Plant Vogtle (/ˈvɡəl/),[4] is a 2 unit nuclear power plant located in Burke County, near WaynesboroGeorgia, in the southeastern United States. It is named after a former Alabama Power and Southern Company board chairman, Alvin Vogtle. This Plant is the ONLY SINGLE plant being built/constructed left in the entire USA. The Project was single-handedly responsible for forcing Westinghouse Corporation into total Chapter 11 Bankruptcy; Chicago Bridge and Iron played a supplier role as did Flour. CB&I decided to bail due to costs – it negatively affected their entire stock portfolio puting the entire corporation’s future in jeopardy. 

Then once Bechtel was brought it Flour bailed as did the Shaw Group and Bechtel took over day-to-day project management on August 31, 2017. At this point what was started as 2 separate projects at the Southern site – the Vogtle 2-reactor project; and the Westinghouse AP1000 2-reactor project – both project broke the backs of Westinghouse, Shaw Group, CB&I and Flour! But it ain’t over yet! By now critical blueprints were lost, serious person-knowledge of ‘show stopper’ construction issues and general engineering nuclear expertise has all been confused if not lost completely lost. YOU CANNOT CONSTRUCT 2 NUCLEAR REACTOR PLANT PROJECTS WITH THIS MANY PROBLEMS SUCCESSFULLY!!!  MARK MY WORDS THIS PLANT WILL SUFFER SERIOUS ISSUES AND A POSSIBLE “FUKUSHIMA-LIKE” DISASTER ONCE PUT INTO OPERATIONS. WTF? WTF!

As a new year gets underway, this is the biggest issue facing utility giant Southern Company. You’ll want to pay close attention to it.

Reuben Gregg Brewer
Reuben Gregg Brewer

Jan 18, 2020 at 12:26PM
Author Bio

Giant U.S. utility The Southern Company (NYSE:SO) has been working to fix a big problem. While it has been making material progress, 2020 will be a very important year. If it can hit all of its targets, then 2021 and 2022 suddenly look a lot brighter. What is it that Southern needs to do? Nothing more than get the only nuclear power plant currently being built in the United States up and running. Here’s what you need to know and watch at Southern as 2020 progresses.

Turning a “disaster” around

The word “disaster” is probably an overstatement when discussing Southern’s plans to build two nuclear power plants at its Vogtle facility. In an industry that’s seen the Chernobyl and Fukushima meltdowns, Southern’s problems are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. However, for investors, they are still big news, including cost overruns, project delays, and the bankruptcy of the company’s original contractor (Westinghouse).

The truth is, Southern’s dream of completing the Vogtle project very nearly ended not too long ago, which would have been a multibillion-dollar hit. The Westinghouse bankruptcy, for example, pushed SCANA to cancel the nuclear plant it was building, resulting in a financial hit that ultimately led to the utility getting bought out by Dominion Energy. None of this is on the scale of a nuclear meltdown, but canceling Vogtle would have been a financial disaster for Southern and its shareholders.

A worker standing in front of electrical power equipment.


Southern pulled this project back from the brink by, basically, taking over day-to-day management from Westinghouse. It also agreed to foot most of the bill if there were any more cost overruns. It is basically betting its reputation and, to a material extent, its finances on the Vogtle project. It’s why Vogtle is the main topic of discussion on every earnings conference call right now. And since it’s a multiyear project that won’t be done until late 2022, there are a lot more conference calls to go before the conversation turns to other things.

However, there will be a very big deadline in late 2020 as the company looks to attach the first of the two nuclear builds to the grid in 2021. And investors should be watching very closely.

Hitting the deadline

The really big event will come around November or December of this year if everything goes as planned, when Southern loads nuclear fuel into the reactor of the Vogtle 3 nuclear power plant. That’s when the rubber hits the road, as the saying goes. Although the plant won’t be put into service for another 6 to 12 months after that, loading the fuel in is really when it becomes a living, breathing nuclear reactor.

There are still a lot of steps to nail down before Southern gets there, mostly designed to test the reliability of the work that has been done. For example, the company has been testing the control room and examining the water pipes to make sure they are all up to spec. The goal is to have construction substantially complete by around mid-2020. That will allow for some final testing before the nuclear fuel gets loaded into the reactor and it basically becomes a fully functioning nuclear power plant.

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