Nuclear Regulatory Commission rejects plan to modify rebar in Plant Vogtle's Unit 3 reactor

A proposal to modify – rather than replace – non-conforming rebar in the foundation of Plant Vogtle’s Unit 3 reactor is unacceptable, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The issue first surfaced in April, when federal inspectors determined the manner in which pieces of rebar were connected differs from specifications approved for the Westinghouse AP1000 reactors being built at the Burke County site.

A notice of violation was issued in May, after which Southern Nuclear proposed modifying the rebar that was already in place.

However, in a letter dated Friday to Southern Nuclear executives, NRC Construction Branch Chief Kathleen O’Donohue said the submitted design revision “does not meet the current licensing basis” and “is not in conformance with code requirements” for the project.

Company officials are evaluating other options to resolve the rebar issue, which involves material placed in Unit 3’s “basemat” area that forms the “nuclear island” upon which the reactor and other components will rest.

“The company understands the NRC’s position and a license amendment request will be submitted for the nuclear island basemat/rebar design,” Southern Co. spokesman Steve Higginbottom said in an e-mailed response to questions about the ruling.

Such an amendment, if approved by the NRC, could alter the design specifications to include the rebar now deemed non-compliant, thus avoiding delays or added costs associated with removing and replacing the material.

Both the cost and the construction schedule for the $14 billion project have garnered attention from the Georgia Public Service Commission because of its potential impact on ratepayers.

In May, it was revealed through a Securities Exchange Commission filing that Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power and other Plant Vogtle owners are disputing proposed adjustments that could add $900 million to the project. The price increases were proposed by the contractor consortium that includes Westinghouse and Stone & Webster Inc.

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