The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has announced an opportunity to request an adjudicatory hearing regarding Southern Nuclear’s notice of intended operation of Unit 3 at the Vogtle nuclear power plant, located in Waynesboro, Ga. The announcement was prompted by a January 13 letter from Southern Nuclear notifying the NRC of its scheduled date of November 23, 2020, for initial fuel loading at the reactor. As required under 10 CFR 52.103(a), the notification was made more than 270 days prior to the scheduled fuel load.
A combined license was issued for Vogtle-3 and -4, Westinghouse-designed AP1000 pressurized water reactors, in February 2012. The license covers both construction and operation after construction is completed if standards—known as inspections, tests, analyses, and acceptance criteria (ITAAC)—identified in the combined license are satisfied. Operation will not be permitted until the NRC staff finds that all ITAACs have been met. However, if a hearing request is granted, the NRC can allow interim operation, given reasonable assurance of adequate protection of public health and safety while the adjudicatory hearing is carried out.
The notice of opportunity to request a limited adjudicatory hearing was published in the February 12 Federal Register. Requests must show standing and must include an admissible contention detailing which ITAACs in the Vogtle-3 combined license have not been or will not be met, including why a failure to meet the criteria would prevent the NRC from having reasonable assurance that public health and safety will be adequately protected. Environmental contentions will not be admitted. Petitions must be filed by April 13.
According to a February 11 ITAAC review status report, 122 ITAAC closure notifications, representing 30.5 percent of all Vogtle-3 ITAACs, have been verified by the NRC staff. For the other 278 ITAACS (69.5 percent), uncompleted ITAAC notifications have been accepted by the staff, which means that the staff has determined that they sufficiently describe a proposed completion plan.
On February 11, Southern Company announced that concrete placement inside the Vogtle-3 containment vessel has been completed, a milestone that allows for the installation of machinery that will be used to load 157 14-foot fuel assemblies into the reactor. The planned commercial operation dates for Vogtle-3 and -4 are November 2021 and November 2022, respectively.