By Rob Pavey
Regulators who detected nonconforming rebar at Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant’s expansion site didn’t have to go far to find a similar problem at the V.C. Summer project in nearby South Carolina.
The two projects – each involving two new reactors – are at different stages of completion, but both Southern Nuclear and SCANA Corp. are building Westinghouse AP1000 reactors designed to be nearly identical from site to site.
Today’s emerging fleet of nuclear plants are touted as islands of consistency – like Walmarts and Waffle Houses – whose uniformity can streamline progress or predict challenges.
“The concept is that AP1000s are all the same, and in theory, that could be an advantage,” said Jim Warren, the director of the North Carolina-based energy and climate watchdog group NC Warn.
The Vogtle project, representing the first new nuclear power reactors to be built in the U.S. in a generation, will be closely watched for its successes and failures, he said, and problems there could very well emerge at other sites.
“But if you start off wrong there, with V.C. Summer close behind, then you eliminate a lot of the ability to make corrections as you go along,” said Warren, a critic of nuclear power.
The nonconforming rebar found by Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors at Plant Vogtle prompted a halt to further installation.
Southern Nuclear plans to remove the material and replace it, even though it could impact the $14 billion expansion’s schedule.
SCANA is now working to resolve a similar problem at its $10 billion project, according to the company’s newest U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission filing.