NRC to act on nuclear license for Plant Vogtle expansion and V.C. Summer project in S.C.

A federal license for two new reactors at Plant Vogtle could be issued concurrently with a similar license to expand the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in South Carolina, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Although the final hearing for the Vogtle project’s operating license was held in September, the NRC cannot act on Southern Nuclear’s request until another regulatory matter – the need to approve a final decision certification for the Westinghouse AP1000 reactors to be used in the project – is complete.

As approval was sought for the AP1000 issue, South Carolina Electric & Gas Co.’s hearing for the Summer project in Jenkinsville was completed Oct. 12-13, placing the projects in a similar stage of regulatory readiness.

Proposed language to certify the AP1000 design was sent by NRC staffers to the NRC on Oct. 21, said Scott Burnell, an NRC spokesman at its Maryland headquarters.

“The expectation is there would be a final commission vote on the certification rule around the end of the year,” he said. “Once that is resolved, that then clears the path for (the) commission to issue final decisions on the hearings for Vogtle and for Summer.”

Because operating license hearings for both projects have been completed, it is possible both projects could be licensed at the same time.

“They could theoretically move on the Vogtle and Summer decisions on the same time, but that is, of course, up to the commission,” Burnell said.

The Vogtle expansion, valued at more than $14 billion, is scheduled for completion in 2016 and 2017, when Units 3 and 4 would begin producing electricity.

Preliminary site work has been under way at the Burke County plant for more than two years. About 1,700 construction workers are involved in the preparation for the construction of the two units, said Southern Nuclear spokesman Jeff Wilson.

One of the largest and most visible projects under way at the site is the assembly of the bottom head of the Unit 3 containment vessel. Components of that bottom head are being assembled and welded. Each containment vessel will have a bottom head, a top head and three rings in between.

Company officials said they believe that the final license will be issued by year’s end.

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