The coming year will include several major milestones at the Plant Vogtle expansion, including the arrival of the first mammoth steel reactor vessel.
“It weighs 300 tons – more than the Statue of Liberty,” said Mark Williams, a spokesman for Georgia Power Co. “In order to get it to the site, it will be transported via a Schnabel car, which is a specially built rail car with many axles for carrying very heavy freight.”
The vessel was built in South Korea and took three years to complete. It left aboard a transport ship and will arrive in the Port of Savannah.
Also scheduled for the first quarter is the complex work of pouring 6,850 cubic yards of concrete that must be applied in a continuous, 50-hour stream to form the nuclear basemat for one of the new reactors.
That work was scheduled to occur last fall but was delayed while issues including noncompliant rebar were resolved.
“We’re progressing toward that point, but we have to make sure we get it right the first time,” Williams said, noting that it will involve the use of 20 to 24 trucks relaying specially formulated concrete from an on-site plant to the steel reinforced foundation area.
Later this year, workers plan to set the “cradle” on which the containment vessel will sit.
The bowl-shaped Unit 3 cradle, 18 feet tall and 288 feet wide, will contain rebar and steel weighing 450 tons and was assembled onsite. It will be lifted into place by a heavy lift derrick assembled and tested last fall.
The coming year will also include continued efforts to resolve lawsuits over rising costs, financing methods and opinions over when the reactors will be able to begin commercial operation.
Last year, the consortium building the units filed a $900 million lawsuit against Georgia Power and other Vogtle owners, seeking recovery of additional costs it contends resulted from licensing delays, design changes and complications with the backfilling during site preparation.
Georgia Power, whose share of those costs would be about $425 million, filed its own lawsuit asserting it is not responsible for those costs.
The new units were scheduled to go into service in 2016 and 2017, but contractors have said they could be delayed by a year or more. Williams said work is being done with contractors to finalize a date.
The plant’s owners continue to evaluate the U.S. Energy Department’s offer of more than $8 billion in loan guarantees to help finance the project.
Failure to come to terms on conditions of the financing has required extensions of the acceptance deadline – the most recent of which was Dec. 31.
“We did request and receive a new extension,” Williams said. “So June 30 of this year is now the deadline for completion.”