The Southern Company (SO) has now brought reactors like Westinghouse AP100 online in China to help break the trend of cost overruns and delays at the company’s Vogtle nuclear construction site in Georgia.
SO is known to have set up a nuclear power plant during the late 1980s at its Vogtle facility. But the costs had overrun from estimates of $2 billion to over $9 billion, and Southern’s contractor Westinghouse declared bankruptcy. Investors were not exactly happy when the company decided to add two more nuclear plants at its Vogtle facility.
However, fourth quarter results provided some solid news. The company believes it is on schedule to hit its November 2021 and November 2022 in-service dates for its two new nuclear units, thanks to the improved efficiency driven by positive employment and retention trends. It has also reformed its decisions about employing less skilled labor for doing simple tasks, and focusing more on skilled labors with tasks only they can complete.
But the role of China is crucial in Southern’s plans to finish strongly at the Vogtle project. As Westinghouse AP1000 reactors have been brought online in that country over the last year, Southern has been there to watch the process. With the Chinese plants going live, it’s now clear to the company how technology actually works. The lesson learned from Chinese start-ups could actually help the company’s own execution.
The Southern Company offers its investors a hearty dividend yield of 4.4%.