Second new US reactor in a week under way

15 March 2013

Vogtle 3 first concrete, March 2013 (Georgia Power) 460x307

Construction has officially begun on a new reactor at the Vogtle power plant in Georgia. It is the second AP1000 construction to start in America this week.

Some 5350 cubic metres of concrete were poured to form the basemat for the nuclear portion of Vogtle 3. It will support the reactor itself and buildings to shield it and house fuel handling facilities and auxiliary equipment.

Buzz Miller of project leader Georgia Power said, "We are very proud of this accomplishment, and of all the hard work and collaboration that went into making it happen. This was a team effort that included Georgia Power, Southern Nuclear, Chicago Bridge & Iron (CB&I), Westinghouse and [Georgia Power's] co-owners Oglethorp Power Corp, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Dalton Utilities."

First concrete at Vogtle 3 came just four days after the same milestone at VC Summer 2 - the first of two AP1000s being built by South Carolina Electric & Gas. Westinghouse CEO Danny Roderick said it had been "a week of momentous progress in bringing a new generation of safe, clean reliable nuclear energy to the USA."

Playing catch-up?

Site preparation for two new reactors at Vogtle began in mid-2009, with a licence to build and operate them following in February 2012. But project leader Georgia Power encountered problems that forced it to amend its licence and use a different concrete mix. This licensing issue was resolved at the end of February but the delay pushed back start-up dates for the two new units to late 2017 and late 2018.

However, the modular design of the AP1000 and the scope of the project to build two units simultaneously have enabled Georgia Power and its primary contractors Westinghouse and CB&I (which purchased Shaw in July 2012) to continue making progress during the delay.

Vogtle 3 and 4, January 2013 (Georgia Power) 460x275
The new Vogtle units in January. Unit 3 in the foreground is more developed, with circular modules staged within reach of the central crane and ready for placement. Containment rings are being assembled in the background in front of a structural module factory. Cooling tower foundations are clearly visible (Image: Georgia Power)

For unit 3 the companies have already made the containment vessel bottom head as well as the cradle module which will support it. Both of these are ready and staged for installation by a heavy lift derrick. The first ring of the containment is complete, the second is 50% complete, and work has started on the final third ring. Large components including the reactor pressure vessel, pressurizer and condenser are already on site and the piping to connect them has been manufactured and is ready for shipping to site. The turbine building's lower foundation is also complete and the the unit's single cooling tower is over 40% complete.

Unit 4's reactor and turbine buildings are excavated and the reactor building space is lined. The containment vessel bottom head is over 90% complete.

At its peak, about 5000 people will be involved in the twin-reactor project, and employ 800 on a permanent basis. The first two reactor units at Vogtle continue to operate through the new construction. They are 1150 MWe pressurized water reactors from Westinghouse built in the 1980s.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News