While all eyes were on a decision by the Georgia Public Service Commission last week on whether to continue with two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, a decision that will allow Georgia Power and its partners to complete the long delayed project, work quietly continued on the plant and included a major milestone.
The latest work involved a massive concrete pour Dec. 18 that lasted 21 hours into the Unit 4 containment vessel. More than 100 workers poured and smoothed nearly 1,300 cubic yards of concrete delivered by a stream of 123 trucks. The work will allow the reactor vessel to be placed early in 2018, Georgia Power said in a news release.
This year, workers at the site have poured more than 57,000 cubic yards of concrete at the site, which the company claims would build a cross-country sidewalk from Miami to Seattle.
The decision Thursday to continue Vogtle at an increased capital cost of $7.3 billion was not the only issue the commission faced last week. That included approving $542 million in costs spent on the project for the first six months of this year, including costs before and after former main contractor Westinghouse declared bankruptcy and Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear Operating Company, which already operates two reactors at Vogtle, was forced to step in and take over. While commission staff had objected to most of those costs because they included payments to vendors and subcontractors owed by Westinghouse, Georgia Power argued the payments were necessary to keep the project going and avoid a costly delay and restart.
Tennessee Valley Authority suspended construction on Unit 2 reactor at Watts Bar Nuclear Power Plant in 1985 and then made the decision in 2007 to restart construction, finally bringing the reactor online in 2016. But the cost of that restart was“several billion,” said commission consultant William Jacobs. Some reports estimate that cost as $4.4 billion.
There are difficulties in constructing a nuclear plant that might not apply to other construction projects. Just getting the rebar that reinforces the concrete into the correct formation to the satisfaction of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was a major issue and other design challenges followed, said Steven Roetger, lead analyst for the commission for Vogtle Construction Monitoring.
“It’s a tough build,” he testified earlier this month before the commission.
Since July, Southern Nuclear has formally taken over construction and has brought on Bechtel to manage daily construction activities. The roughly 6,000 people working at the site have finished some major projects, including in August placing a 1.4 million pound steam generator into Unit 3, the first of two needed for the reactor to come online in 2021.
Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213