Vogtle Electric Generating Plant

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Plant Vogtle
Vogtle NPP.jpg
Vogtle Electric Generating Plant is located in Georgia (U.S. state)
Vogtle Electric Generating Plant
Location of Vogtle Electric Generating Plant
Official name Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant
Country United States
Location Burke County, Georgia,
Coordinates 33°8′36″N 81°45′38″W / 33.14333°N 81.76056°W / 33.14333; -81.76056Coordinates: 33°8′36″N 81°45′38″W / 33.14333°N 81.76056°W / 33.14333; -81.76056
Status Operational
Commission date Unit 1: June 1, 1987
Unit 2: May 20, 1989
Construction cost $19.071 billion (2007 USD, Units 1–2 only)[1]
Owner(s) Georgia Power (45.7%)
OPC (30%)
MEAG (22.7%)
City of Dalton (1.6%)
Operator(s) Southern Nuclear
Nuclear power station
Reactor type 4-loop PWR (active), AP1000 (in construction)
Reactor supplier Westinghouse
Cooling source Savannah River
Cooling towers 2 × Natural Draft
(two more under construction)
Power generation
Units operational 2 × 1215 MW
Make and model General Electric
(Units 1 & 2)
Units under const. 2 × 1117 MW
Capacity factor 86%
Annual net output 18,297 GW·h
Plant Vogtle — Southern Nuclear

The Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, also known as Plant Vogtle (/ˈvɡəl/),[2] is a 2-unit nuclear power plant located in Burke County, near Waynesboro, Georgia, in the southeastern United States. It is named after a former Alabama Power and Southern Company board chairman, Alvin Vogtle.

Each unit has a Westinghouse pressurized water reactor (PWR), with a General Electric steam turbine and electric generator. Units 1 and 2 were completed in 1987 and 1989, respectively. Each unit is capable of producing approximately 1,200 MW of electricity when online, for a combined capacity of 2,400 MW. Southern Nuclear lists the capacity as 1,215 MW each, for a combined output of 2,430 MW.[3] The twin natural-draft cooling towers are 548 ft (167 m) tall and provide cooling to the plant's main condensers. Four smaller mechanical draft cooling towers provide service water cooling to auxiliary safety and non safety components and remove the decay heat from the reactor when the plant is offline. One natural-draft tower and two service water towers serve each unit. In 2009, the NRC renewed the licenses for both units for an additional 20 years, to the 2040s.[4]

Construction of two additional AP1000 reactors (3 and 4) is underway.[5] Natural-draft type cooling towers were also selected and the two new cooling towers will also be nearly 550 feet tall. The certified construction & capital costs incurred by Georgia Power for these two new units were originally $4.418 billion which escalated to an estimated $5.440 billion ($7.745 billion including financing costs) according to the Sixteenth Semi-annual Vogtle Construction Monitoring Report.[6][7][8] This last report blames the latest increase of costs on the Contractor not completing work as scheduled. Though the utility suffered some of the cost increases resulting from the delay, protections in the EPC (Engineering, Procurement, Construction) agreement largely insulate the utility from these cost increases. Upon completion of units 3 and 4, Vogtle will become the largest nuclear station in the United States and one of the largest power plants of any fuel type nationwide in terms of annual energy output.[9] Westinghouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on March 29, 2017.[10] Westinghouse's bankruptcy throws the future completion of these reactors into doubt.

Surrounding population[edit]

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission defines two emergency planning zones around nuclear power plants: a plume exposure pathway zone with a radius of 10 miles (16 km), concerned primarily with exposure to, and inhalation of, airborne radioactive contamination, and an ingestion pathway zone of about 50 miles (80 km), concerned primarily with ingestion of food and liquid contaminated by radioactivity.[11]

The 2010 U.S. population within 10 miles (16 km) of Vogtle was 5,845, a decrease of 16.3 percent in a decade, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data for msnbc.com. The 2010 U.S. population within 50 miles (80 km) was 726,640, an increase of 8.8 percent since 2000. Cities within 50 miles include Augusta (26 miles to city center).[12]

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's estimate of the risk each year of an earthquake intense enough to cause core damage to the reactor at Vogtle was 1 in 140,845, according to an NRC study published in August 2010.[13][14]

Power uprate[edit]

In 2008, both reactors were increased in power by 1.7% by an "Appendix K" uprate,[15] also called a Measurement Uncertainty Recapture uprate. "Measurement uncertainty recapture power uprates are less than 2 percent and are achieved by implementing enhanced techniques for calculating reactor power. This involves the use of state-of-the-art feedwater flow measurement devices to more precisely measure feedwater flow, which is used to calculate reactor power. More precise measurements reduce the degree of uncertainty in the power level, which is used by analysts to predict the ability of the reactor to be safely shut down under postulated accident conditions."[16] Because the reactor power can be calculated with much greater accuracy now than with the old venturi type measurement, the plant can safely run within a tighter margin of error to their limit. The new flow meter works by comparing the time it takes ultrasonic sound pulses to travel upstream versus downstream inside the pipe, and uses that time difference to figure the flow rate of the water in the pipe.

The NRC approved Vogtle's License Amendment Request (LAR) in March 2008. "The NRC staff determined that Southern Nuclear could safely increase the reactor’s output primarily through more accurate means of measuring feedwater flow. NRC staff also reviewed Southern Nuclear’s evaluations showing the plant’s design can handle the increased power level."[17] Unit 1 was uprated during its spring 2008 defueling outage, and Unit 2 was uprated in the fall outage of the same year.

Site area emergency[edit]

On March 20, 1990 at 9:20 a.m., a truck carrying fuel and lubricants in the plant's 230kv low voltage switchyard backed into a support column for the feeder line supplying power to the Unit 1-A reserve auxiliary transformer (RAT). At the time, the 1-B RAT was de-energized for maintenance and RAT 1-A was powering both trains of emergency electrical power, and the non-emergency electrical trains were being powered by back-feeding from the switchyard through the main step-up transformer to the 1-A and 1-B unit auxiliary transformers (UAT.) Additionally, Emergency Diesel Generator (EDG) 1-B was out of service for planned maintenance. After the power loss, EDG 1-A failed to start due to a protective safety trip. The resulting loss of electrical power in the plant's "vital circuits" shut down the residual heat removal (RHR) pump that was cooling Unit 1 (which was nearing the end of a refueling outage) and prevented the back-up RHR from activating. Even though Unit 1 was offline at the time, residual heat from the natural decay of the radioactive fuel needed to be removed to prevent a dangerous rise in core temperature. While the non safety power was not interrupted, there was no physical connection between the vital and non-vital electrical trains which prevented the vital trains from receiving power from the unaffected path through the UATs.

At 9:40 a.m., the plant operators declared a site area emergency (SAE) per existing procedures which called for an SAE whenever "vital" power is lost for more than 15 minutes. At 9:56 a.m., after trying multiple times to start the "A" EDG normally, plant operators performed an emergency startup of the EDG by activating the generator's "emergency start" break-glass which bypassed most of the EDG's safeties and forced it to start. The startup was successful. RHR-A was then started using power from EDG-A. With core cooling restored, the SAE was downgraded to an alert at 10:15 a.m. At 11:40 a.m., crews energized RAT 1-B which had been shut down for maintenance and restored power to the "B" safety electrical train. At 12:57 p.m., the "A" safety train was switched from the EDG to RAT 1-B and the EDG was shut down. With both trains receiving offsite power, the alert was terminated at 1:47 p.m.

The temperature of the Unit 1 core coolant increased from 90 °F to 136 °F during the 36 minutes required to re-energize the A-side bus. Throughout the event, non-vital power was continuously available to Unit 1 from off-site sources. However, the Vogtle electrical system was not designed to permit easy interconnection of the Unit 1 vital busses to non-vital power or to the Unit 2 electrical busses.[18] Since this incident, Plant Vogtle has implemented changes to the plant that allow the non-vital electrical buses to transfer power to the vital buses in this type of scenario.

The electrical fault described above also affected unit 2 by causing breakers in the 230kv switchyard to trip cutting off power to RAT 2-B and vital bus B on unit 2. EDG 2-B subsequently started and restored power to the vital bus. At the same time, the electrical disturbance from the falling line striking the ground was detected by protective safeties on unit 2's main step-up transformer and a protective relay actuated and opened the transformer's output breaker causing a full load rejection to unit 2 which led to a turbine trip and reactor scram. After the unit tripped, the B non-vital electrical train lost power as it attempted to transfer from UAT 2-B (which is powered by the turbine generator) to the failed RAT 2-B causing two of the reactor coolant pumps and one of the main feedwater pumps to trip, though the plant cool down proceeded safely. At 9:03 p.m., the RAT 2-B breakers in the switchyard were reset and offsite power was restored to the vital and non-vital B electrical trains allowing reactor coolant pumps 2 and 4 to be restarted. EDG 2-B was shutdown. It was later determined that the fault disturbance caused by the line falling was not of significant magnitude to trip the protective relay per design and should not have caused unit 2 to shut down. Further investigation found that current transformers on the main transformer were improperly set. The controls were adjusted to the proper setting. Had the CTs been properly set initially, the unit would have remained online.

Units 3 and 4[edit]

Construction underway at Vogtle, October 2011
Vogtle Unit 3 Condenser B time-lapse video

On August 15, 2006, Southern Nuclear formally applied for an Early Site Permit (ESP) for two additional units. The ESP determined whether the site was appropriate for additional reactors, and this process is separate from the Combined Construction and Operating License (COL) application process.[19] On March 31, 2008, Southern Nuclear announced that it had submitted an application for a COL, a process which will take at least 3 to 4 years.[20] On April 9, 2008, Georgia Power Company reached a contract agreement for two AP1000 reactors designed by Westinghouse which is owned by Toshiba. Westinghouse partnered with the Shaw Group (Baton Rouge, LA) and its Stone & Webster division to manage the project with Westinghouse responsible for engineering, design, and overall management, and with Shaw responsible for manufacturing the pre-fabricated module components as well as managing the on-site construction.[21] The contract represents the first agreement for new nuclear development in the US since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, and received approval from the Georgia Public Service Commission on March 17, 2009.[22] As stated by a Georgia Power spokesperson Carol Boatright: "If the PSC approves, we are going forward with the new units."[21]

On August 26, 2009, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued an Early Site Permit and a Limited Work Authorization. Limited construction at the new reactor sites began, with Unit 3 then expected to be operational in 2016, followed by Unit 4 in 2017, pending final issuance of the Combined Construction and Operating License by the NRC.[23][24] These dates have since slipped to 2019 and 2020.[25][26]

On February 16, 2010, President Obama announced $8.33 billion in federal loan guarantees toward the construction cost,[27] although as of December 2013 Georgia Power had not availed itself of those guarantees. The expected building cost for the two reactors is $14 billion.[28] Georgia power's share is around $6.1 billion, while "remaining ownership of the two reactors is split among Oglethorpe Power Corp., the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG Power), and Dalton Utilities".[29]

In February 2012, the NRC approved the construction license of the two proposed AP1000 reactors at the Vogtle plant.[30] NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko cast the lone dissenting vote on plans to build and operate the two new nuclear power reactors, citing safety concerns stemming from Japan's 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, and saying "I cannot support issuing this license as if Fukushima never happened".[31] One week after Southern received the license to begin construction, a dozen environmental and anti-nuclear groups sued to stop the expansion project, saying "public safety and environmental problems since Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor accident have not been taken into account".[32] On July 11, 2012, the lawsuit was rejected by the Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.[33]

In February 2013, the project's construction contractor, Shaw, was purchased by Chicago Bridge & Iron Company (CB&I.) On March 12, 2013 construction on unit 3 officially began with the pour of the basemat concrete for the nuclear island.[34] This operation was complete on March 14.[35] During the weekend of June 1–2, 2013, assembly of the containment vessel began with the bottom head of the vessel being lifted into place on the nuclear island.[36] By June 2013, construction schedule had been extended by at least 14 months.[37] On November 21, 2013, the basemat pour for Unit 4 was completed.[38]

In February 2014, the Department of Energy approved a $6.5 billion loan guarantee for Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power and Oglethorpe Power Corp. The Department of Energy initially demanded a credit subsidy fee, but the demand was ultimately dropped given the financial strength of Southern Co. and the Vogtle project.[39][40][41]

Further delays and cost increases were incorporated in a revised schedule in early 2015. Unit 3 is now tentatively scheduled for completion in 2019 and Unit 4 in 2020. As a result of the increased delays and cost overruns, contractor CB&I exited the project and Westinghouse took direct control of the project as contractor and hired construction firm Fluor to replace CB&I/Shaw on-site managing the day-to-day work. Westinghouse purchased certain assets of the former Shaw Group from CB&I to allow the project to go forward. In 2016, Southern and Westinghouse added construction firm Bechtel to the project to share construction management responsibilities with Fluor with Bechtel primarily focusing on the nuclear island.[42]

Recent construction milestones include the setting of the final of the "big six" structural modules for Unit 3 the CA-02 and CA-03 which form the walls of a storage tank that is part of the reactor's passive cooling systems. The big 6 modules also include the previously installed CA-01, CA-04, and CA-05 in-containment structural modules and the previously installed CA-20 structural module which forms part of the internal structure of the auxiliary building and contains many of the reactor's support systems. CA-02 and CA-03 were placed within the containment vessel during May 2016. The setting of these modules is a fairly significant milestone and allows other construction activities to commence that could not until the modules were in place. It was also announced that the cooling tower of unit 4 is nearing completion. In June the final reactor coolant pump for Unit 3 was received on site. In November 2016, the reactor vessel for unit 3 was set within the nuclear island. 2017 progress includes the installation of the reactor coolant loop piping and both steam generators at Unit 3. Progress has also been made in the turbine, auxiliary, and annex building construction. Unit 4 has also seen progress with the installation of the final two big six structural modules complete.

On January 22nd 2018, the Unit 3 pressurizer was installed within the containment vessel.

Westinghouse bankruptcy[edit]

In March 2017 Westinghouse Electric Company, who are building the plant, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy because of $9 billion of losses from its two U.S. nuclear construction projects.[43] The U.S. government had given $8.3 billion of loan guarantees to help finance construction of the Vogtle reactors[44], and it is expected a way forward to completing the plant can be agreed.[45] On July 31, 2017 Southern division Southern Nuclear officially took over construction from Westinghouse and opened a bid for a new construction management contract to manage the day-to-day work on the site. Southern received bids from both Fluor and Bechtel. On August 31, 2017 Southern announced its decision to move forward with the project. Southern also announced that it selected Bechtel to be its day to day construction manager for the remainder of the project. Bechtel will replace the current primary construction manager Fluor who will no longer be involved in the project.[46]

As of October 2017, recent progress includes completion of a critical 71 hour continuous concrete pour within the Unit 3 containment vessel, the installation of the second and final steam generator for Unit 3, installation of the CA-33 floor module within Unit 3, placement of the unit 4 deaerator within the turbine building, and the setting of the unit 4 CA-03 module within the containment vessel.[47]

In November 2017 the Georgia Public Service Commission requested additional documentation following concerns that design blueprints had not been approved by appropriately licensed engineers, which has legal implications. On December 21, 2017, the PSC approved the continuation of construction on units 3 and 4, with conditions that reduced the costs that can be recovered from ratepayers over the life of the project.[48]

Reactor data[edit]

The Vogtle Electric Generating Plant consists of two operational reactors; two additional units are under construction.

Reactor unit Reactor type Capacity Nuclear Construction started Electricity grid connection Commercial operation Shutdown
Net Gross
Vogtle-1[49] Westinghouse 4-loop 1150 MW 1203 MW August 1, 1976 March 27, 1987 June 1, 1987
Vogtle-2[50] Westinghouse 4-loop 1152 MW 1202 MW August 1, 1976 April 10, 1989 May 20, 1989
Vogtle-3[51] AP1000 1117 MW 1250 MW March 12, 2013[34]
Vogtle-4 AP1000 1117 MW 1250 MW November 19, 2013


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External links[edit]