Executives at Georgia Power Co. are celebrating the achievement of some milestones in the construction of two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle: the final vertical level and the delivery of the final coolant pump.
Construction is still only one-third complete, but these achievements are somewhat significant, company officials said.
Reaching the highest level of construction above the ground is a symbolic moment for the 5,300 workers at the site, as it is at all major construction projects. The highest point on the job is the top of the cooling towers are 601 feet, and crews are now at the top of the second one.
Delivery of the fourth and final coolant pump has a different significance. While it may not spark any toasts, it means that when construction crews are ready to install it and the other three, there will be no waiting.
Georgia Power engineers have closely monitored construction of nuclear plants in China using the same AP-1000 design, often spending weeks at a time on site in Asia. Since many of them began construction before Plant Vogtle’s Units 3 and 4, the Georgia engineers have had the chance to learn from snags their Chinese counterparts encountered.
One of the problems they met were construction delays caused by waiting for coolant pumps to be delivered, according to David McKinney, the Southern Nuclear vice president.
By prodding the pump maker, Georgia Power was able to get all four for Unit 3 on site ahead of their need. Next, the 187.5-ton pumps will be installed so they can circulate the hot water within the reactor to control heat.
Speaking of big components, the company is also celebrating the placement of the last of what it calls the “Big Six” modules for the nuclear island of Unit 3, that’s the heart of the nuclear plant.
The modules, weighing 52 tons and 237 tons, were assembled in a separate staging area on site and then lifted into place. They are part of a 75,000-cubic-foot tank that will contain water treated with boron that will also play a role in managing the reactor’s heat.
McKinney testified last week before the Georgia Public Service Commission that he’s accepting the contractor’s promise that there will be no more delays in the project, which is already three years behind schedule.
“We’re in a healthy situation versus what’s left to be done,” he said, noting that the majority of the engineering work and procurement are complete, taking care of the most expensive part of the job.