Construction Timeline 1st Quarter 2011


JW: Joe Washington
DM: David Moncus
AA: Amy Aughtman

This is Vogtle Timeline with your host, Joe Washington.

JW: We kicked off 2011 making significant headway here at the construction site of Southern Company's Plant Vogtle, America's newest nuclear power plant. We're laying the foundation to provide continued reliable energy for generations to come. Literally. The foundation work is under way here in several areas. Concrete is being made here on-site now in one of our batch plants and being used to pour the platform for the heavy equipment crane that will move modules and parts for the nuclear island into place.

We've also begun to construct the Mechanically Stabilized Earth - or MSE - retaining wall. From the rim of the excavated area at unit 3, you can now see where the AP1000, the heart of this power plant, will be built. To tell us more about this is David Moncus, Southern Company's nuclear island construction manager.

DM: As you can see, we're standing on the rim of unit number 3 excavation. Below us is the outline of the nuclear island. The MSE function is the same as you see on the interstate where you see overpasses. They have walls that hold the earth back; that's the same concept here. Once the MSE walls are established, there will be work inside of the nuclear island. There's a completely safe work environment and each unit, unit 3 and unit 4 will have approximately 800 to 810 panels. The largest panels weigh approximately 3,500 pounds. The MSE walls not only serve to function to hold back backfield, but they will also act as our outside form for our building exterior walls. The advantage of the MSE wall installation is to allow us to compact our schedule. We can do our module assemblies at the same time we are completing backfield activities in the power block areas and meet the overall schedule of the plant.

JW: Thanks David. Now, adjacent to the nuclear island you can begin to see the outline of the cooling tower basins. Two cooling towers will be constructed, one for each unit. These are designed as natural draft cooling towers, which means they will function by relying on natural forces instead of mechanical. Each tower will reach 550 feet in height when completed. Excavation for the circulating water system beneath the towers has also begun. Pipe systems are being laid outside from the plant moving toward the side of the cooling towers, as you can see. The water source for this system is the nearby Savannah River. Water will be pumped through the plant's condensers and used over and over as a source of cooling.

When units 3 and 4 are complete, how do we get the power we've generated from the plant to the people who need it? The switchyard is where power is collected so we can send it out over transmission lines to our customers. Right now we're working on upgrading the existing switchyard at Vogtle units 1 and 2 with new equipment such as breakers, switches, switch gears, transformers and protective devices. The switchyard has to be able to handle the additional power that will be generated by the two new units and we're going to get ready for that now.

There's as much going on behind the scenes as what you can actually see here. Hundreds of people are working every day to keep this project on budget and on schedule. One way we are staying on target is successfully submitting our applications and obtaining our licenses from the regulatory agencies overseeing the project.

Recently we reached a significant milestone in licensing when the NRC recommended that our COL, the combined license to construct and operate the plant, be granted. With more on this landmark decision, here's Southern Nuclear AP1000 Licensing Supervisor, Amy Aughtman.

AA: Southern Nuclear is very happy to report that the permit to construct and operate the new Vogtle units is in the final stages of review at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In a combined license application, called the COL application, the NRC staff reviews descriptions of the applicant's qualifications, design, environmental impacts, operational programs and site safety. The NRC staff conducts its review in accordance with the Atomic Energy Act and NRC regulations. The technical review has been completed by the NRC staff and the advisory committee on reactor safeguards, which is an independent group of technical experts. The result of this review is the recommendation that the license be issued. The next step will be mandatory licensing hearings set for later this summer. Following the hearings, the license is expected to be issued late this year. Receiving the license clears the way for all construction activities at the site.

JW: Thanks Amy. This new power plant will allow us to produce the lowest-cost continuous, safe and reliable energy per kilowatt hour. As we continue to make great strides here, we hope you will join us for the next Vogtle Timeline, when we'll take you to the Shandong Nuclear Power Company in China. They're two years ahead of the U.S. in the construction of the AP1000 and that gives us an unprecedented opportunity to learn as much as possible about the construction and operation of this system as we move forward.

That's all from here. See you next time.

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