Augusta Economy

More News | Fort Gordon | Plant Vogtle | Savannah River Site | Editor

Vogtle foundation change can proceed before NRC ruling

Tuesday, June 26, 2012 7:19 PM
Last updated 9:36 PM
  • Follow Latest News

A plan to modify the foundation for Plant Vogtle’s new Unit 3 reactor is safe enough to allow contractors to proceed before regulators rule on a formal license amendment, according to the Nu­clear Regulatory Com­mis­sion.

Back | Next
  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/FILE
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/FILE

Southern Nuclear notified the commission in March that minor settling beneath the reactor’s “mudmat” made it a few inches off level and would require changes.

The mudmat lies beneath the concrete “basemat” on which nuclear buildings will sit. The current license allows a 1-inch variability in the levelness of the basemat, and the requested amendment would increase that leeway to 4 inches, allowing engineers to level the surface by using more concrete when the basemat is poured.

Southern Nuclear can move ahead with basemat construction, David Matthews, the director of the NRC’s Di­vision of New Reac­tor Licensing, said in a letter to B.L. Ivey, Southern Nuclear’s vice president for regulatory affairs.

The “notice of no objection” authorizes the proposed change but says it remains subject to a ruling on the license amendment. If the amendment is denied, Southern Nuclear must return the plant to existing specifications.

A second issue, involving rebar that is not consistent with the design standard, is also being corrected this week. Workers began corrective actions Friday that include welding the rebar fasteners to bring them into compliance.

The $14 billion project includes two new reactors scheduled to begin operation in 2016 and 2017.

Comments (3) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
TrulyWorried
13020
Points
TrulyWorried 06/26/12 - 09:35 pm
1
0
Safety

should be on top of the list. WILL it be safe???
Too many things are done in a hurry or swept under the rug. I don't have the above name for nothing!! :o(

gpb
3
Points
gpb 06/27/12 - 03:04 am
1
0
Safety

TrulyWorried, I'm not involved in the nuclear power industry, so someone please correct me if I'm wrong on any detail here (as if I needed to say that in this august forum), but these new reactors are Westinghouse AP1000s. There's a pretty good Wikipedia article on them if you want to read up on them. One good factor (of many) is that AP1000 installations are intended to be highly standardized because that introduces many efficiencies, including standardization of operation and support and--especially--SAFETY. That means that the reactors have to be built on a relatively narrow specification in order to meet that standard. That's just good, sound engineering, and it also has good cost efficiencies as well since everything is highly standardized. What you're seeing here are applications for small variances from the standard template. It does NOT mean that corners are being cut or that people are in a hurry, but rather they're minor tweaks to the design. The NRC has to approve each one of these minor tweaks. That the NRC gave preliminary approval without making a formal ruling--yet--on the amendment just underscores how relatively minor the change to the basemat design is--and how great the financial consequences are for noncompliance (if they make a mistake and their amendment is after-the-fact denied, they have to restore everything back to the way it was). As for sweeping something under the rug, I don't think we have much to worry about: this is the first new reactor construction in the United States since TMI. The project is under incredible, intense scrutiny. All eyes in the industry are on this project. As such, I think one could make the argument that this project will be more closely scrutinized than the subsequent ones will be. Read up on the AP1000 and its passive safety systems and see if you don't agree. By no means should any of us take our eyes off the ball, but I am truly not worried. I would, however, be vigilant and keep myself informed as to what's going on, and so should all of us.

Slivver
3
Points
Slivver 06/27/12 - 08:26 am
1
0
Safety

A great picture is canvassed by both TW and gpb. Having worked with nuclear plants through construction, testing and operation since 1978 until my retirement last year, one lesson I learned is that nuclear power must be respected (and yes "feared" a little). The day we lose that respect and "fear" is the day we allow a mistake that could have severely adverse consequences. But starting since the days of Admiral Rickover, the US has developed numerous checks and balances, which gpb describes very well in his discussion of Plant Vogtle. Designs have evolved for the improvement of safety -- and the new AP1000 reactors represent our best engineering efforts. Many internal utility (Quality Assurance) and external (NRC, Institute of Nuclear Power Operations) organizations are populated with intelligent, dedicated individuals whose sole mission is to ensure compliance with design and operating regulations. Any minor deviations from design during construction are identified and scrutinized by workers, supervision and these oversight organizations. If the deviations are not acceptable they are reworked. Consequences for deliberate ("sweeping things under the rug") non-compliance are harsh -- including hefty fines and jail time for those involved. There are no good reasons to even consider short cuts and "sweeping." Training for all nuclear employees has evolved and improved -- and includes recurring reminders of the failures of the past (TMI, Chernobyl, and many other less significant events) so that employess remain aware of the consequences of the lack of diligence and rigor in their every task. So, yes, we were/are taught to "fear" our jobs, but also how to do those jobs correctly and consistently to go beyond those "fears" and produce SAFE and RELIABLE electricity. We need nuclear as a power source for this country to be the economic leader that it is. TW and gpb, you both are right. A balance of fear and diligence is necessary.

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs