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NRC oversight ensures safety at Vogtle, chairwoman says

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Nuclear Regulatory Com­mission Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane toured Plant Vogtle on Friday and expressed confidence that her agency will ensure all safety objectives are met.

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Buzz Miller (from left), Southern Nuclear Development president; Steve Kuczynski, Southern Nuclear president and CEO; U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Augusta; and Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane at Vogtle Friday.  SOUTHERN NUCLEAR/SPECIAL
SOUTHERN NUCLEAR/SPECIAL
Buzz Miller (from left), Southern Nuclear Development president; Steve Kuczynski, Southern Nuclear president and CEO; U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Augusta; and Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane at Vogtle Friday.

“In preparation for this visit, I’ve spent time with resident inspectors at the site, both at the operating facilities and at the construction site,” she said. “Both of these teams are focused on the main priorities of ensuring public health and safety.”

The Burke County plant includes two existing reactors and a mammoth construciton site for two new reactors. Once completed, the two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors will be the first new commercial power reactors to go online in the U.S. in decades.

As part of the NRC’s oversight mission, onsite personnel monitor activity at both nuclear areas along with safety officials from Southern Nuclear.

“It’s very impressive, and a very complex project, clearly,” she said. “We’ll continue to be vigilant over the construction activity and the operating reactors, and insure they operate safely.”

Plant Vogtle received the commission’s first-ever combined operating license in early 2012. A second project, S.C. Electric & Gas Company’s V.C. Summer project, was licensed soon afterward and both projects are moving forward.

The projected price of the Vogtle expansion recently rose from $14 billion to more than $14.7 billion, based on data provided to the Georgia Public Service Commission, and completion dates have been pushed from November 2016 and November 2017 to “fourth quarter 2017 and fourth quarter 2018” for units 3 and 4, respectively.

Macfarlane also shared her thoughts on the announcement that Southern California Edison would shut down – rather than repair – its San Onofre nuclear power plant that provided electricity for about 1.4 million southern California homes. The plant was shut down almost 17 months ago due to problems in its steam system, but those issues are not expected to create problems at other nuclear sites, she said.

“At this point in time we have not seen this particular kind of failure at any other reactor,” she said.


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