Event Report and update: Vogtle rebar doesn’t meet standards, may push back construction schedule and add to cost of new reactors

Sometimes there’s just not enough detail on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Event Reports page. This morning, Shaw Nuclear Services and subcontractor Joseph Oat Corporation of Charlotte, North Carolina, reported to the NRC what was described as “a noncompliance associated with the steel reinforcing material (rebar) attached to embedments being supplied as basic components for the Vogtle Units 3 and 4, nuclear project, based on reinforcing bar that exceeded the limit for yield strength.”

It is unclear whether this is the same rebar issue covered in a Bloomberg artilce published yesterday. Bloomberg reported:

Southern Co.’s new nuclear reactors face delays that may boost costs beyond the $14 billion budgeted, an independent construction monitor said.

The reactors, due to be completed in 2016 and 2017, are already running seven-and-a-half months late and could be set back further by “additional potential delays recently identified” by Southern’s construction partners, William Jacobs said in testimony filed on the Georgia Public Service Commission’s website today.

Jacobs said that the delays were because of a ‘design issue.’ If you’re curious about what that means, I can’t help you. According to Bloomberg:

Jacobs said the latest delays stem from improperly installed rebar and a design issue, the details of which were redacted from his testimony to protect trade secrets.

I can understand Southern’s concerns. If their trade secrets got out, what’s to stop another enterprise from raising $15 billion, securing NRC approvals and a DOE loan guarantee and building a nuclear plant across the street from Vogtle? I’m sure all that’s keeping that from happening is knowing which way to put in the rebar.

By the way, William Jacobs is not an employee of Southern Co. He is the independent monitor hired by Georgia’s utility regulatory agency to oversee the Vogtle expansion.

Bloomberg further reported:

After “lengthy” negotiations with federal regulators, Southern and its construction partners agreed to remove some of the installed rebar and follow the original design, Jacobs said.

Doing so would delay pouring of first nuclear concrete, a construction milestone, by about three months until September or October, Jacobs said.

Here’s a link to the Bloomberg article: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-31/southern-s-nuclear-construction-faces-added-delays-monitor-says.html

 

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About Robert Singleton

By day, I work for a temp staffing agency. In my spare time, I try to save my hometown (and planet) from a nearly constant onslaught of greedheads, lunatics and land developers. I live in a fictional town called Austin, Texas, where I go to way too many meetings.
This entry was posted in Construction delays, Event Reports, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Nuclear Renaissance, Southern Co., Vogtle and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Event Report and update: Vogtle rebar doesn’t meet standards, may push back construction schedule and add to cost of new reactors

  1. djh says:

    The conclusion that the rebar “doesn’t meet standards” is completely incorrect. Years ago the NRC detemined that they couldn’t be responsible for reviewing all modifications done to nuclear plants and created a process by which licensees can review changes without having to have the NRC’s approval. Generally, modifications that do not create a negative consequence screen out. Now, it seems, the NRC spends an large amount of time reviewing decisions that were made under this process and then squeezes licensees, not for the decisions, but for not getting their approval. In this case, the design was changed to relieve rebar congestion where the first layer of horizontal rebar meets the verticle wall. This was an improvement to the design and has nothign to do with cutting corners or saving money. The NRC did not determine that this “doesn’t meet standards”, they determined that it wasn’t consistent with the Design Control Document that was approved by the NRC. The point is that no other contruction, including those high rises that house thousands of people, undergo this type of administrative scrutiny. In any other industry, the government authority would have praised the improvement and asked the builder to update the paperwork. This review process has become a lever used to drive up expenses at nuclear plants, justify jobs and prop up governmental empires while driving up expenses that we either end up paying for in taxes or the cost of electricity.

    • Thank you for your comments, but I have to stand by what I wrote. The NRC Event Report, written by the subcontractor, described the issue as ‘a noncompliance,’ and the monitor for the project told the state’s utility regulatory body that there was ‘a design issue’ with the rebar. To most of us, noncompliance and design issues are pretty much an indication of a failure to meet standards. Finally, you say that changing design standards without seeking regulatory approval would be okay in any other industry. I’m not sure that’s true, but I submit that nuclear power plants should have to meet a higher standard than other industries. And if adherence to government standards means that nuclear power plants are too expensive to build, then I say don’t build them.

  2. read more says:

    Wow that was strange. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit
    my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyhow, just wanted to say superb blog!

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