Southern Nuclear pursues construction license

Plant Vogtle's parent company wants the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to allow additional construction activities as it awaits permits for two new reactors.

Southern Nuclear received an Early Site Permit and Limited Work Authorization last year allowing grading and other preliminary work at its Burke County site.

The company has filed an amended request that would allow more work -- even before receiving a Combined Operating License authorizing the construction and operation of the new reactors.

That work would include pouring concrete for the "nuclear island" foundation base slabs and installing reinforcing steel, sumps, drain lines and other components that will be embedded in the concrete, according to the amended application.

Company spokeswoman Beth Thomas said permission to move ahead with the foundation would enable the project to stay on schedule in the event of any delays in obtaining the Combined Operating License, which is expected to occur in 2011.

The new units would go online in 2016 and 2017.

"We don't believe there will be any problem or delays in receiving the COL, but this helps mitigate any risks if there happen to be any," she said.

The request, she added, is designed so it would not be issued until after the NRC resolves negotiations with Westinghouse over some design changes for the site's new AP1000 reactors.

"The NRC is working through that process now," she said. "If this request is approved, it would allow us to begin placing the concrete and rebar in the base mat area prior to receiving the COL in 2011."

NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said the request remains under review and has not yet been fully evaluated.

The site preparation work force now numbers about 600.

At the peak of construction in 2013-14, more than 3,000 workers are expected to be at the site.

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.