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Supplying parts efficiently for the new reactors has also proved difficult. William Jacobs Jr., the state monitor hired by Georgia utility regulators, has publicly questioned whether a factory run by The Shaw Group can master quality control rules and deliver parts on time. NRC inspectors have faulted the facility for failing to maintain accurate records on the qualifications of workers. SCANA Corp. raised similar concerns.
Shaw spokeswoman Gentry Brann said the company has addressed the NRC’s concerns.
Among the findings
Plant Vogtle in eastern Georgia » Initially estimated to cost $14 billion, it has run into over $800 million in extra charges related to licensing delays. A state monitor has said bluntly that co-owner Southern Co. can’t stick to its budget. The plant, whose first reactor was supposed to be operational by April 2016, is now delayed seven months.
The long-mothballed Watts Bar power plant in central Tennessee » Initially budgeted at $2.5 billion, it will cost up to $2 billion more , the Tennessee Valley Authority concluded this spring. The utility said its initial budget underestimated how much work was needed to finish the plant and wasted money by not completing more design work before starting construction. The project had been targeted to finish in 2012, but has been postponed until 2015.
Plant Summer in South Carolina » Expected to cost $10.4 billion, it has seen costs jump by $670 million; but with lower interest rates and cheaper-than-expected labor; the owners assert the project is still on or under budget. A deadline to put the first new reactor online has been delayed from 2016 to 2017; the second reactor is now eight months ahead of schedule, targeted for early 2018.
In Tennessee, internal reviews faulted the Tennessee Valley Authority for not providing enough oversight on the project and for allowing a culture to develop that discouraged the sharing of bad news, for example, site problems that led to delays. Not enough engineering work was finished before construction started, meaning construction workers sometimes did not have enough work to do.
In an embarrassing episode, the TVA temporarily stopped work at the site in January after two mishaps revealed safety problems. No one was injured, and the operating plant did not experience any problems. In one case, workers removed a cable connected to equipment in the working reactor. In another, they cut out valves before getting proper clearance and verifying the system was safe.
Changes have been made to bring the project under control, said Mike Skaggs, who became the authority’s senior vice president of nuclear construction in October. He said the TVA has carefully evaluated the remaining work on the reactor, slimmed down its workforce and made instructions to work crews easier to understand.
Skaggs has been involved in building two other nuclear plants and said the project requires constant monitoring.
"If you’ve got a good estimate, you use the estimate as a roadmap to complete the project," Skaggs said. "What I’m most worried about is the assumptions we’ve made in the estimate — are they ringing out true?"
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