Vogtle reactor completion might be later than planned

Plant Vogtle’s new reactors might begin producing electricity eight months later than expected, according to Georgia Power Co.’s newest construction report filed with the state Public Service Commission.

“The target to complete the units to serve customer needs in 2016 and 2017 can still be achieved,” the semi-annual disclosure said, noting, however, that the projected operation date for Unit 3 has been moved from April 1, 2016 to Nov. 28, 2016; and Unit 4’s commercial operation date has moved from April 1, 2017 to Nov. 28, 2017.

The $14 billion project, for which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued final licenses Feb. 9, was affected by delays in the final design certification for the AP1000 nuclear reactors that will be built at the Burke County site, the report said.

The company will explore the costs and benefits of “compressing” the construction schedule, but said any such decision must not adversely impact quality or safety.

Although the project is $28 million under budget, the report noted cost increases will become more likely in the future due to further delays, unforeseen modifications that might be needed and change orders that have already begun to emerge from contractors Westinghouse and Stone & Webster.

The Vogtle units are the first new commercial reactors to be built in the U.S. in almost three decades — and also represent the first Westinghouse AP1000 units constructed in this country.

China, however, is already building four identical units in its Sanmen and Haiyang nuclear plants, offering Plant Vogtle’s engineers an opportunity to observe what lies ahead for the Georgia project.

“The construction efforts at all four Chinese units are approximately 24 months ahead of the Vogtle Project and, therefore, are sources of lessons learned for the Units’ construction and subsequent operation,” the report said, adding that the company’s resident Shanghai project manager is serving as a liaison between the two nations.

“Efforts of the Shanghai project manager were incorporated into the development of construction monitoring plans for major Vogtle Units 3 and 4 activities,” the report said, and information learned from China projects was used to develop better plans for lifting reactor vessel components.

Georgia Power Co.’s PSC report on Vogtle also noted that a Westinghouse imposed stop-work order involving Chicago Bridge & Iron’s containment vessel assembly was lifted after minor quality issues were resolved. “CB&I has added a night shift, developed more efficient welding techniques, and reallocated resources to improve and recover production,” the report said.

Also during the second half of 2011, quality issues with fabrication activities by Mangiarotti and its sub-suppliers were identified and are being monitored, while reactor vessel and steam generator welding quality issues at Doosan Heavy Industries were resolved with a corrective action plan completed in January.

The report, filed this week, covers July 1, 2011 through Dec. 31, 2011, but also includes details of the licensing activity completed in February.

 

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