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Southern Nuclear awaits NRC approval for Plant Vogtle expansion

SPECIAL
Preliminary work continues at the site of Plant Vogtle's Unit 3 turbine building. Federal regulators are scheduled to vote Thursday on a license authorizing construction of the project's nuclear components.
Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012 12:54 PM
Last updated Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012 4:12 AM
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It is a busy week for Southern Nuclear that could culminate with a historic first for the U.S. nuclear power industry.

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Workers at Plant Vogtle are continuing to assemble the containment vessel bottom head and lower ring that will become part of Unit 3. Southern Nuclear hopes to gain final approval Thursday to enter the $14 billion project's nuclear construction phase.  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
Workers at Plant Vogtle are continuing to assemble the containment vessel bottom head and lower ring that will become part of Unit 3. Southern Nuclear hopes to gain final approval Thursday to enter the $14 billion project's nuclear construction phase.

The company, which is seeking Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval to add two reactors to Plant Vogtle in Burke County, Ga., is briefing federal regulators today in Atlanta on the status of site preparation work it hopes will lead to the nation’s first nuclear reactor construction in a generation.

Then on Thursday, during a noon meeting at the NRC headquarters in Rockville, Md., the full commission is scheduled to vote on whether to affirm the company’s quest for a combined operating license that would authorize both the construction and operation of the reactors.

The license, if issued, would be the first of its kind and would also lead to the construction of the first AP1000 modular reactors in the U.S., creating a workforce in Georgia that would peak at about 3,500 during the next three years.

Scott Burnell, an NRC spokesman at the commission’s headquarters, said an affirmative vote Thursday would provide staff members with the final components needed to issue the license, which could occur “within days.” The commission, he added, also has the options of denying the license or asking for revisions in the application.

Although federal officials will not predict the outcome of the vote, Southern Nuclear officials are counting on the long awaited approval.

The company has scheduled a news conference in Atlanta – immediately after the NRC vote – in which Southern Co. CEO Thomas Fanning and Georgia Power Co. President W. Paul Bowers will discuss the “historic license for new Vogtle units.”

During the past three years, the site has been transformed from pine forests and old buildings into a secure, reactor-ready complex with footings and foundations for turbine buildings, nuclear islands and cooling towers. Company officials hope to move ahead with the project and bring the reactors into operation in 2016 and 2017.

Environmental activists turned up the heat today in efforts to block the $14 billion project.

A consortium of nine groups, including Friends of the Earth and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said a joint request will be made to the NRC asking that Thursday’s license decision be delayed to give them time to file a legal challenge in U.S. District Court.

The groups will contend the NRC’s evaluation of the Vogtle project failed to consider the impacts of the Fukushima disaster in Japan. The groups also plan to challenge the recently approved design certification for the Westinghouse AP1000 reactors.

Although the Vogtle project is likely to be the first to receive approval for reactor construction, several other applications remain under evaluation, including SCANA Corp.’s effort to add two units to the V.C. Summer nuclear plant in South Carolina.

In all, according to the NRC Web site, there are at least 18 combined operating licenses under review for a total of 28 units.

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Little Lamb
46022
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Little Lamb 02/08/12 - 02:23 pm
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Concerning the groups opposed

Concerning the groups opposed to nuclear power, the article said:

The groups will contend the NRC’s evaluation of the Vogtle project failed to consider the impacts of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

Vogtle is, what, 80 or 90 miles from the ocean? It was the tsunami that sealed the fate of the reactors in Japan. I don't think the tidal wave can come this far up the river.

burninater
9583
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burninater 02/08/12 - 02:41 pm
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LL, you're right, tsunami

LL, you're right, tsunami inundation is not a Vogtle issue. The NRC IS under fire for dragging their heels on reevaluating the seismic design assumptions in old reactors -- we know a lot more about earthquakes in the US now than we did thirty and forty years ago -- but that's not an issue with new design construction.

SCEagle Eye
914
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SCEagle Eye 02/08/12 - 02:47 pm
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Part of the issue at hand is

Part of the issue at hand is the survivability of the "shield building" that sits over the containment shell in case of a severe earthquake. The Japanese earthquake, which may have caused the meltdowns in Japan even without the tsunami which followed, may well have leveled the shield building. Question is - can the AP1000 survive an earthquake of larger magnitude than the Charleston quake of 1886 (at whatever ground motion force might be caused at Vogtle's distance from the epicenter)?

burninater
9583
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burninater 02/08/12 - 04:49 pm
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Another concern is

Another concern is hidden/unknown seismic sources, Eagle Eye. The Central and Eastern U.S. poses a unique problem, because seismic sources in these areas don't have the regular, periodic behavior that they do out West. It's easy to make a case for robust (ie more expensive) design in a place where you have historic 7+ magnitude eq's, but tricker here where faults may rupture once in a couple centuries on previously unknown structures, and on structures that have no surface expression.

burninater
9583
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burninater 02/08/12 - 04:52 pm
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Charleston is fairly unique

Charleston is fairly unique in the East with it's ongoing seismicity, but it is still unknown if the current earthquakes there are aftershocks of the 1886 event or indications that there is ongoing strain from an unknown process at depth.

icemanw83
37
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icemanw83 02/09/12 - 08:54 am
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Well Bob, I hope you don't

Well Bob, I hope you don't like flying, because you pick up more radiation on a trip from NYC to LA than most nuke plant workers do in a year. And nuke plants don't "spill radiation all over". Radiation is a big deal at nuke plants; it's very tightly controlled.

burninater
9583
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burninater 02/09/12 - 09:29 am
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Also Bob, you may be

Also Bob, you may be interested to know that burning coal releases more radioactive material to the environment than nuclear power.

Little Lamb
46022
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Little Lamb 02/09/12 - 09:46 am
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Bob Costas wrote: There is NO

Bob Costas wrote:

There is NO safe level or radiation, it can last for millions of years.

Okay, Bob, I see your hyperlink and raise you one:

Radiation Hormesis

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