This Wall Street Journal article* reports that the new Vogtle units may be in construction schedule trouble. The article notes that the new, modular construction techniques being employed were expected to save time and dollars but may be having the opposite effect. In addition, and somewhat incredibly, the independent monitor is citing design changes as another cause of delays. Thought that lesson had been learned a hundred times in the nuclear industry.
Then there is the inevitable finger pointing:
“The delays and cost pressures have created friction between the construction partners and utility companies that will serve as the plant's owners, escalating into a series of lawsuits totaling more than $900 million.”
The Vogtle situation also serves as a reminder that nuclear safety culture (NSC) is applicable to the construction phase though to our recollection, there was not a lot of talk about it during the NRC’s policy statement development process. The escalating schedule and cost pressures at Vogtle also serve to remind us of how significant a factor such pressures can be in a “massive, complex, first-of-a-kind project” (to quote the Westinghouse spokesman). These situational conditions will be challenging construction workers and management who may not possess the same level of NSC experience or consciousness as nuclear operating organizations.
* R. Smith, “New Nuclear Plant HitsSome Snags,” Wall Street Journal online (Dec. 23, 2012).