Georgia advisers expect more delays for Southern's Vogtle 3 reactor

June 9 (Reuters) - Startup of the third reactor under construction at Southern Co's (SO.N) Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia is likely to be delayed beyond the company's January 2022 estimate, advisers to the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) say.

The Vogtle 3 nuclear plant will, when completed, be the first new reactor in the United States since 2016, when Tennessee Valley Authority finished Watts Bar 2.

After several lengthy starts and stops, it took TVA over 40 years to finish Watts Bar 2. The Vogtle units are the only U.S. reactors under construction.

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But delays and cost overruns in building reactors could make it difficult for new nuclear to play much of a role in President Joe Biden's goal of getting all U.S. power from non-carbon-emitting sources like nuclear and renewables by 2035.

"It is our opinion that Unit 3 COD (commercial operation date) will be significantly later than the Jan. 18, 2022 Unit 3 forecast by the company," an adviser told the PSC this week.

However, Southern said on Wednesday that the "current site workplan (still) indicates a January 2022 completion for Unit 3," adding that it plans to finish Vogtle 4 by the regulatory-approved November 2022 in-service date.

Analysts at Mizuho said PSC staff estimated Vogtle 3's delay at 7-9 months and noted Vogtle 4 may not be completed until the end of 2023.

When Georgia approved the Vogtle expansion in 2009, the two 1,117-megawatt Westinghouse AP1000 reactors were expected to cost about $14 billion and enter service in 2016 and 2017.

Some analysts estimate costs have ballooned to more than $27 billion due to delays related to a nuclear accident at Japan's Fukushima plant in 2011 and the 2017 bankruptcy of Westinghouse, the project's former contractor.

Southern estimated the capital cost for its 45.7% share of the new Vogtle reactors at about $8.7 billion.

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Reporting by Scott DiSavino

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