The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said on 21 June that it has launched a special inspection at the Vogtle NPP in Georgia “to identify what has led to construction remediation work for the electrical cable raceway system at unit 3”. The plant, where units 3&4 are still under construction, is operated by Southern Nuclear Operating Co.
The NRC inspection team will focus on the electrical cable raceway system, consistingprimarily of conduits and cable trays designed to route and support the cables needed to ensure safety related equipment is powered to perform its safety functions. Electrical cable raceway systems for commercial nuclear power plants are routed and designed to prevent a single event from disabling redundant safety-related equipment.
During the inspection, the NRC will review Southern Nuclear’s actions following the discovery that led to construction remediation work, including a review of their root cause investigation, corrective actions, construction quality assurance process, and any potential implications for unit 4.
Southern Nuclear began hot functional testing for unit 3 in April to ensure reactor components and safety systems perform as designed and to confirm the reactor is ready for nuclear fuel load. “With no nuclear fuel in the reactor, there is no increased risk to the public as Southern Nuclear conducts these tests or performs remediation work on the electrical cable raceway system,” NRC said. NRC will not authorise the licensee to load fuel and operate Vogtle 3 “until construction is complete and they have satisfied the standards identified in their combined licence”.
Southern has said the two units under construction at Vogtle, which are billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule, were on track to enter service next year with unit 3 in the first quarter of 2022 and unit 4 by its regulatory-approved in service date of November 2022. When Georgia approved the Vogtle expansion in 2009, the two 1,117MWe Westinghouse AP1000 reactors were expected to cost about $14 billion and enter service in 2016 and 2017. Costs are now estimated at $27 billion due to delays related to a nuclear accident at Japan's Fukushima plant in 2011 and the 2017 bankruptcy of Westinghouse, the project's former contractor.