ATLANTA (AP) — The costs of expanding Georgia Power's nuclear plant are growing, and at least part of the price hike is tied to the coronavirus outbreak and the rising number of workers diagnosed with the COVID-19 disease.

Southern Company, the Atlanta-based parent company for Georgia Power, forecasts it will cost $149 million more than previous projections for its share of expanding Plant Vogtle, which was already billions of dollars over its original budget and years behind schedule.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the company said Georgia Power could eventually ask state regulators to charge customers for the latest price tag increase.

Southern Company said the pandemic continues to affect work at Vogtle.

In April, the company cut 2,000 jobs on the project after absenteeism rose and coronavirus cases grew at the construction site south of Augusta. Southern said the number of worker cases then declined, but began to increase again in mid-June and “continue to impact productivity levels and pace of activity completion.”

The company said it expects to have the two new nuclear units operating by November 2021 and November 2022.

But even before the coronavirus outbreak, Georgia Public Service Commission staffers and independent monitors said it was highly unlikely that the Vogtle expansion will be completed by then. They also predicted the project will be $1 billion over its current budget.

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