NRC issues new report for Convention on Nuclear Safety

September 12, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission last Friday announced the publication of its ninth report to the Convention on Nuclear Safety, describing the federal government’s actions under the convention to achieve and maintain safety for the nation’s nuclear power reactor fleet.

An International Atomic Energy Agency treaty, the Convention on Nuclear Safety was adopted in 1994 and entered into force in 1996. In 1999, it was ratified by the U.S. Senate.

The aim of the convention, according to the IAEA, is to “commit contracting parties operating land-based civil nuclear power plants to maintain a high level of safety by establishing fundamental safety principles to which states would subscribe.” Signatories are required to submit reports for peer review at meetings held every three years.

NRC okays fuel loading at new Vogtle unit

August 4, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Unit 3 at the Vogtle site in July 2022. (Photo: Georgia Power)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has authorized Vogtle plant operator Southern Nuclear to load fuel and begin operation at Unit 3—the first reactor to reach this point in the agency’s combined license process. (Prior to 1989, reactors were licensed under a two-step process, requiring both a construction permit and an operating license.)

Georgia Power sued by Vogtle co-owners

June 24, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Vogtle Units 3 and 4, with Units 1 and 2 in the background. (Photo: Georgia Power)

Both Oglethorpe Power Corporation and the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG), two co-owners of the Vogtle nuclear plant, have filed lawsuits against Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power, the facility’s primary owner.

Oglethorpe and MEAG are 30 percent and 22.7 percent owners, respectively, of Vogtle. Georgia Power holds a 45.7 percent share. (Dalton Utilities, which owns 1.6 percent of the plant, is not involved in the suits.)

Vogtle project update: Cost likely to top $30 billion

May 9, 2022, 3:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe
The Vogtle-4 diesel generator building in March. (Photo: Georgia Power)

The total bill for the reactor expansion project at the Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia is now expected to exceed $30 billion, according to the Associated Press. The original price tag for the two Westinghouse AP1000 units was $14 billion.

Vogtle project hit with new delay, higher cost

February 22, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Fuel preparing to be unloaded outside of Vogtle-3 last month. (Photo: Georgia Power)

Commercial operation dates for the two new reactors under construction at the Vogtle nuclear plant have been pushed back yet again, adding to the project’s total cost, Southern Company announced last week. The Vogtle plant is near Waynesboro, Ga.

During its February 17 fourth-quarter earnings call, Southern reported that the projected start dates for both reactors were being extended by three to six months. Vogtle-3 is now expected to begin providing electricity to Georgians in the fourth quarter of 2022 or first quarter of 2023, with Vogtle-4 coming on line in the third or fourth quarter of 2023.

Vogtle’s Unit 3 in-service date on target for this year

January 31, 2022, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
In a photo from November 2021, the Vogtle plant’s Unit 4 is in the foreground, and Unit 3 is in the center. Units 1 and 2, which entered service in the 1980s, are shown at the top of the photo. (Photo: Georgia Power)

A spokesperson for Georgia Power has confirmed that the projected in-service date for the new Vogtle-3 reactor remains the third quarter of 2022, according to an article published on January 27 on the Power magazine website. The in-service date for Vogtle-4 is targeted for the second quarter of 2023, the spokesperson said.

Vogtle-2 to test Westinghouse fuel enriched to 6 percent

January 31, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
ADOPT fuel pellets developed by Westinghouse through the DOE's Accident Tolerant Fuel Program. (Photo: Westinghouse)

Westinghouse Electric Company and Southern Nuclear have agreed to a plan to install four Westinghouse lead test assemblies in Vogtle-2, a 1,169-MWe pressurized water reactor located in Waynesboro, Ga. Four lead test assemblies containing uranium enriched up to 6 percent U-235 will be loaded in Vogtle-2 in 2023, marking the first time that fuel rods with uranium enriched above 5 percent U-235 are put in use in a U.S. commercial power reactor.

Looking back at 2021—Nuclear News October through December

January 7, 2022, 2:59PMNuclear News

This is the fifth of five articles posted today to look back at the top news stories of 2021 for the nuclear community. The full article, "Looking back at 2021,"was published in the January 2022 issue of Nuclear News.

Quite a year was 2021. In the following stories, we have compiled what we feel are the past year’s top news stories from the October-December time frame—please enjoy this recap from a busy year in the nuclear community.

Latest delay to Vogtle project may not be the last

December 8, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
Vogtle Units 3 (in foreground) and 4, in November. (Photo: Georgia Power)

Georgia Power has revised the projected commercial operation dates for Vogtle-3 and -4 a total of four times this year—most recently in October—but some experts are saying that at least one more delay is probable.

NRC heightens oversight at Vogtle-3 project

November 29, 2021, 12:02PMNuclear News
The Vogtle-3 turbine building (left) and containment (right) in October. (Photo: Georgia Power)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will increase its oversight of Vogtle-3—one of the two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors under construction at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Waynesboro, Ga.—after finalizing two inspection findings involving the unit’s safety-related electrical cable raceway system. Vogtle’s operator, Southern Nuclear, was informed of the decision in a November 17 letter.

The agency had launched a special inspection at Vogtle-3 in June of this year to determine the cause and extent of construction quality issues in the raceway system, which consists primarily of conduits and cable trays designed to prevent a single event from disabling redundant safety-related equipment.

Georgia Power again pushes back Vogtle project start dates

October 25, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News
Vogtle-4 containment as it appeared last month. Photo: Georgia Power

In what has become for nuclear advocates an all-too-familiar refrain, Georgia Power has made another revision to the Vogtle nuclear expansion project schedule. The company now predicts a Unit 3 in-service date in the third quarter of 2022 and a Unit 4 in-service date in the second quarter of 2023, representing a three-month shift for each unit.

NRC may step up scrutiny of Vogtle project

August 31, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
Vogtle-3 (left) and -4 in June. (Photo: Georgia Power)

Oversight of the Vogtle nuclear new-build project will be increased if the preliminary conclusions in an August 26 Nuclear Regulatory Commission special inspection report are finalized.

Conducted from June 21 to July 2, the inspection looked into the cause and extent of construction-quality issues in the safety-related electrical cable raceway system at Vogtle-3.

Vogtle project suffers another setback

July 30, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Vogtle Units 3 and 4, earlier this month. (Photo: Georgia Power)

Georgia Power yesterday announced that due to 'productivity challenges' and the need for 'additional time for testing and quality assurance,' it has revised the schedule for the Vogtle-3 and -4 nuclear expansion project. The new schedule pushes back the Unit 3 in-service date to the second quarter of 2022 and the Unit 4 date to the first quarter of 2023—a three-to-four-month shift for each unit.

Commissioner Caputo to leave NRC on June 30

June 23, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

Caputo

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Annie Caputo will depart the agency when her term expires at the end of this month, NRC Chairman Christopher Hanson said yesterday. Her departure will leave the five-seat panel with only three commissioners—the minimum number required for it to conduct business—as former chairman Kristine Svinicki resigned in January of this year.

At this writing, Caputo has not announced her post-NRC plans.

Remaining on the commission are two Democrats, Hanson and Jeff Baran, and one Republican, David Wright. President Biden has not named a replacement for either of the vacancies and can choose only one Democrat, since no more than three commissioners can be from the same political party.

Special inspection begins at Vogtle-3

June 23, 2021, 12:01PMNuclear News
Vogtle’s Unit 3, earlier this month. Photo: Georgia Power

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has launched a special inspection at the Vogtle new-build site to identify the errors that necessitated construction remediation work on Unit 3’s electrical cable raceway system.

Experts predict further delay to commercial start of Vogtle-3

June 11, 2021, 7:02AMNuclear News
Vogtle-3’s containment (right) and turbine building (left) in May. Photo: Georgia Power

Georgia Power recently pushed back its projected commercial operation date for Vogtle-3 from December of this year to January 2022, but now some engineering and financial experts are saying that this revised date is too optimistic.

Vogtle-3 startup delayed until January as costs increase

May 20, 2021, 7:15AMNuclear News

The commercial start date for Unit 3 at the Vogtle construction site near Waynesboro, Ga., has been pushed back to January of next year, adding some $48 million to the cost of the nuclear new-build project, according to Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear officials who were testifying at a May 18 hearing before the Georgia Public Service Commission.

National Geographic looks at the future of nuclear power in the United States

May 6, 2021, 12:03PMANS Nuclear Cafe
Unit 3 of the Vogtle plant under construction (Photo: Georgia Power)

To reach President Biden’s goal of cutting U.S. carbon emissions in half by 2030 and to have a net-zero carbon economy by 2050, some environmentalists are reconsidering their opposition to nuclear energy’s role as a climate crisis solution. According to the article, The controversial future of nuclear power in the U.S., from National Geographic, nuclear power has a lot going for it. Its carbon footprint is equivalent to wind, less than solar, and orders of magnitude less than coal. Nuclear power plants take up far less space on the landscape than solar or wind farms, and they produce power even at night or on calm days.

Southern targets December for Vogtle-3 startup

May 3, 2021, 6:54AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Vogtle-3 turbine generator. Photo: Georgia Power

Southern Company is targeting December for placing Vogtle-3 in service, according to Tom Fanning, the company’s chairman, president, and chief executive officer, who spoke with financial analysts on April 29 in its first-quarter earnings call. “The site work plan now targets fuel load in the third quarter and late December 2021 in-service date for Unit 3,” Fanning said. “Of course, any delays could result in a first-quarter 2022 Unit 3 in-service date.”

Latest from Vogtle: Unit 3 hot functional testing begins, Unit 4 water tank placed

April 27, 2021, 3:01PMNuclear News
The CB-20 module is placed atop the Vogtle-4 containment vessel. Photo: Georgia Power

Georgia Power yesterday announced two significant milestones at the Vogtle nuclear plant’s expansion project: the commencement of hot functional testing at Unit 3 and the placement of Unit 4’s passive containment cooling water storage tank, known as CB-20.