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Five New US Reactors Reach Milestones

Nov. 19, 2013—The five nuclear reactors under construction in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee reached several milestones in 2013. When complete, they will become the first nuclear energy facilities to go on line in 30 years and will provide electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.

VOGTLE 3 AND 4

Two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors are under construction at Southern Co.’s Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro, Ga.

The $14 billion project has been one of the largest economic development projects in state history and a major job creator. There are currently 3,200 workers at the Vogtle construction site, said Jeff Wilson, spokesperson for Southern subsidiary Georgia Power. At its peak, the project will employ 5,000.

Vogtle received an early site permit from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2009, allowing the company to start some construction prior to receiving a combined license authorizing construction and operation. The NRC granted the licenses for both Vogtle units in February 2012, paving the way for building of the nuclear areas to begin.  

Earlier this year, construction at Vogtle reached a milestone when the 900-ton containment vessel bottom head was placed into the cradle in the reactor 3 nuclear island, the heaviest lift at the site to date.

Upcoming work at reactor 3 includes setting the cavity that will house the reactor vessel in the nuclear island.

At reactor 4, nuclear construction is about to begin; the basemat concrete pour will take place soon, Wilson said.

Vogtle reactors 3 and 4 are expected to come on line in 2017 and 2018, respectively, to provide power to 500,000 Georgia homes and businesses, the company says.

Georgia Power is considering more nuclear construction as an option to expand clean and reliable electricity generation once the new Vogtle reactors are completed. 

“I can tell you that we want to keep nuclear as an option on the table,” Paul Bowers, Georgia Power’s president and chief executive officer, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this month.

“Nuclear will continue to be one of the ways we meet future demand, along with natural gas, coal, energy efficiency and renewables,” said Wilson.

V.C. SUMMER 2 AND 3

Nuclear construction is now under way for both AP1000 reactors at South Carolina Electric & Gas’ V.C. Summer site, after the first concrete was poured for the nuclear island basemat at reactor 3 earlier this month (see Nuclear Energy Overview, Nov. 7).

Pouring the 7,000 cubic yards of concrete—an exacting process—took 43 hours to complete, seven hours faster than the reactor 2 concrete pour in March. Rhonda O’Banion, spokesperson for SCE&G subsidiary SCANA, said several lessons learned from the first pour, including modifications to equipment like concrete pumps and improvements to the placement plan, speeded up the second one.

“Quality control inspectors performed additional in-process inspections prior to the placement, which reduced final inspection time,” O’Banion added. About 2,000 workers are currently on site constructing the two reactors, each of which will generate 1,117 megawatts of electricity. The workforce is expected to peak at about 3,000 workers.

Next steps for construction at the Summer site include setting the first containment vessel ring and the auxiliary building module for reactor 2 and construction of the containment vessel bottom head support module at reactor 3, O’Banion said.

SCE&G received construction and operating licenses from the NRC in March 2012.

The first reactor is scheduled for completion in late 2017 or early 2018.

WATTS BAR 2

The Tennessee Valley Authority expects its Watts Bar 2 to be the first new nuclear energy facility to go on line in the United States in the 21st century, but its history stretches back further than the other four reactors under construction.

Construction began in the 1970s and was stopped in 1985 after the decades-long trend of growing electricity demand slowed.

The reactor, near Spring City, Tenn., was about 60 percent complete when TVA resumed work in 2007. An October update from the organization targeted a December 2015 completion date. The Westinghouse pressurized water reactor will generate 1,150 megawatts, powering about 650,000 homes.

“There are currently nearly 3,400 personnel on the Watts Bar unit 2 construction project, with an anticipated peak of approximately 3,500 in 2014 as the site works toward the major milestone of open vessel testing,” said TVA spokesperson Duncan Mansfield.

“Open vessel testing is the first of five functional testing milestones designed to demonstrate that Watts Bar Unit 2 has been built to industry, TVA and regulatory standards of quality,” he said.

Other tests are scheduled for the second half of 2014, Mansfield said.