The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said it will increase oversight at one of the Vogtle nuclear power plants under construction in Waynesboro, Georgia, after finalising two inspection findings involving the safety-related electrical raceway system at unit 3. Southern Nuclear Operating Company operates the site for Georgia Power.
NRC launched a special inspection in June 2021 to understand the cause and extent of construction quality issues in the electrical raceway system, consisting primarily of conduits and cable trays designed to prevent a single event from disabling redundant safety-related equipment.
The finalised inspection findings include two violations of federal regulations. NRC inspectors found that Southern Nuclear did not properly implement its corrective action programme, resulting in construction quality issues, extensive rework, and a report to the NRC for a significant quality assurance breakdown. They also found that the company did not follow design specifications while installing safety-related cables for reactor coolant pumps and equipment designed to shut down the reactor safely.
In a written response to the initial report, Southern Nuclear proposed the NRC combine the two violations since both involve failing to adhere to engineering standards for electrical equipment and systems vital to emergency reactor shutdown. After considering the additional written information from the company and the inspection results, NRC determined that the two findings would remain separate.
NRC characterises these findings as a low-to-moderate safety significance and will schedule a supplemental inspection to verify Southern Nuclear understands the root cause and has taken appropriate corrective actions. There is no increased risk to the public as Southern Nuclear corrects the conditions as there is no nuclear fuel in the reactor. The NRC will not authorise the company to load fuel and operate Vogtle 3 until it has met the standards in the combined licence.
Meanwhile, Plant Vogtle expansion cost for units 3 and 4 have increased by $300 million more than the projection given on 21 October by staff at Southern Nuclear, increasing Georgia Power's projected total cost to $9.5 billion. Senior leadership from Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear took questions on 15 November on the expansion project during a hearing in front of the Georgia Public Service commission to approve the Vogtle Construction Monitoring report, which comes out twice a year.
Two Georgia power staffers – David L McKinney, senior vice president of nuclear development, and Jeremiah C Haswell, project oversight director – and president and CEO of Southern Nuclear Stephen E Kuczynski took the stand to elaborate on testimony they filed last month, when they said Vogtle 3 would be delayed until the third quarter of 2022.