NRC Fields Questions on Shaw Delay

A bird’s eye view of construction at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station, Courtesy of High Flyer.

JENKINSVILLE – Members of the Jenkinsville community gathered at McCrorey-Liston Elementary School Tuesday night to hear an update from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on how the agency oversees safety standards at the reactor construction at the nearby V.C. Summer Nuclear Station. From the outset, Tom Kozak, Senior Operation Engineer, and Jim Luehman, Director of Inspection Headquarters, told the audience that the meeting was only a review of the fledgling Construction Reactor Oversight Process (cROP), and that specifics of reactor construction would not be address. Nevertheless, both found themselves addressing just that; particularly the most recent delay at the site.

Last month, The Shaw Group, which is constructing the two new reactors at V.C. Summer for S.C. Electric & Gas (SCE&G), laid off 140 workers after the NRC found that rebar construction preliminary to the pouring of concrete for the basemat structure (the concrete platform on which the reactors, the steam generators, pumps and other nuclear materials will rest), deviated from the original NRC-approved design. Tom Clements, a Columbia-based environmental activist who works with Nuclear Watch South, a member group of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, questioned Kozak about the rebar, as did The Voice.

Kozak said the original issue with the rebar was spotted by NRC inspectors at Shaw’s sister project, a similar construction job at the Alvin W. Vogtle Plant near Waynesboro, Ga., and the detection and correction of the matter was an example of how the new oversight process works.

“We conducted an inspection at Vogtle, and they identified rebar that was put together that did not meet the way it was described in the design,” Kozak said. “They had made a change to the design that they thought was in accordance with the design change process that they’re allowed to do. We determined that it was not.”

The same design deviation was later detected at V.C. Summer, Kozak said, and while the deviation represented a “very low” safety concern, the matter still had to be corrected.

“So they either make a change in their design in accordance with our design control process, or they need to take apart and reassemble the rebar so it meets the approved the design,” Kozak said. “The licensee here (Shaw) became aware of that issue at Vogtle and entered it into their corrective action program before we came in and inspected it here, and that’s what we encourage licensees to do.”

Rhonda O’Banion, Public Relations Director for SCANA (of which SCE&G is a subsidiary), said after the meeting that replacement of the rebar had not yet been completed. Kozak said that by reconfiguring the rebar to adhere to the original design, SCE&G will not require a license amendment request, something that may have been a time-consuming option had they chosen to press forward with the present construction.

“They decided to bring the rebar into conformance with the design,” Kozak said.

Detailed information and updates on construction of the new reactors at V.C. Summer can be found at the NRC’s Web site, www.nrc.gov.