Troubled Nuke Project to get “Special Inspection”

June 23, 2021

More frustrations in Georgia as the only current nuclear construction project in the US continues to see more delays and cost increases.
While complex inspection processes are annoying, and expensive – the extremes operating parameters of current nuclear plants make hawkish regulation necessary.
I’m all for anybody that can come up with some new nuclear design that overcomes the critical safety, waste, and proliferation issues – but I think a lot of folks don’t understand just how high the bar is for nuclear to be a big player in coming decades.

Atlanta Journal Constitution:

U.S. nuclear regulators have launched an extra review into problems with the installation of crucial electrical cable systems at the Plant Vogtle expansion and how Southern Company responded to those issues.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said its regional team this week began a special inspection, the first of its kind in more than a decade of construction on the Georgia project.

It comes as two of Southern’s subsidiaries, Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear, were supposed to be within months of finishing the first of two new reactors. The project is already years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said in an email, “We conduct a special inspection when something out of the ordinary and significant occurs where the agency wants to ensure there’s a full understanding of the issue.”

The special inspection is an expansion beyond the NRC’s routine inspections.

It will look into “what has led to construction remediation work for the electrical cable raceway system” on the first new reactor. The system is “designed to prevent a single event from disabling redundant safety-related equipment.”

The review will delve into what actions were taken by Southern Nuclear after problems were found, the quality assurance process and “any potential implications” for a second reactor under construction, the NRC said. The review is expected to last two weeks and include a public report within 45 days of completion.

A Georgia Power spokesman emailed that, “Southern Nuclear welcomes NRC’s inspection of its construction activities and will be engaged in NRC’s inspection process.”

The spokesman reasserted project timelines announced recently, including the first new reactor going into operation in the first three months of next year, rather than this coming November. Advisers for Georgia regulators have predicted the unit won’t be in operation until at least the summer of 2022, a conclusion that was made prior to the NRC’s new inspection.

In March, Atlanta-based Southern Company, disclosed that it had begun corrective steps and a broader review tied to quality on the project south of Augusta.

Georgia regulatory staffers and independent monitors have highlighted numerous recent issues on the Vogtle work, including violations of codes that require minimum separation of high voltage cables to eliminate the risk of sparking a fire.

5 Responses to “Troubled Nuke Project to get “Special Inspection””

  1. neilrieck Says:

    Although I have always been pro-nuclear, this is another example of why investors do not like to touch reactors. With wind or solar an investor can go from “empty field” to “money flowing in” in as little as three months. Perhaps nuclear is not possible in a capitalistic economy without government help (eg. public-private partnership)

    • John Oneill Says:

      It’s a double standard. Coal kills 2,000 people a year in Germany, not even considering climate change, and they’re hoping to phase it out by 2038 ( some mothballed plants have already been brought back from the mortuary because, you know, they needed power.) Meanwhile half their nuclear plants, which emit nothing, have been shut down, and the rest will be closed next year – too dangerous. Even the RBMK reactor, the Chernobyl villain, widely recognised as the most poorly designed in general use, has racked up 300 reactor/years in Russia since Chernobyl without killing anyone – admittedly with a few retrofits.
      Pressurised water reactors have never killed anyone, and neither has their spent fuel, yet it routinely costs a billion dollars to get a new one certified, and more billions for redundant safety – back-ups for the back-ups, resident SWAT teams, plus endless court time to cross all the legal hurdles. That not only adds to cost, it puts off investors, so nuclear pays double the interest rate of a wind project. People would think it insane to pay as much to certify a building as to construct it, yet gravity is more dangerous than radiation – buildings fall over and kill people all the time.

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        It is a double standard, in part because coal got an early lead in the PR wars.

        It doesn’t help that there were so many corporate, bureaucratic and logistical screwups in addressing Fukushima Daiichi, even something as pedestrian as reducing the groundwater flow into the active area (“Frozen dam”? Really?)

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Where’s Mike Dombroski?

  3. indy222 Says:

    Financially who has the most to lose from successful nuclear power? Right. Big Oil. Do you suppose along with their other gravy that they get for the billions into the pockets of legislators, that they don’t also get more gum up and spanners thrown into the progress of nuclear projects? Pretty easy to believe. Of course it’ll be framed as “trouble with the wiring” or whatever (not that there may not be legitimate issues what with the fleeing of nuclear engineers due to this popular un-support). But in the larger picture, you shouldn’t have to look far at who’s running the puppets.


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