Workers put a key structural module in place over the weekend at the developing Unit 2 nuclear containment building at the V.C. Summer power plant in Jenkinsville , S.C. Electric & Gas said Tuesday.
The 180,000-pound CA05 module will form the base structural support for the entire, all-important containment building, which will house the Unit 2 reactor, where the atomic fission process takes place to release the energy needed to turn huge turbines that in turn produce electricity.
SCE&G officials labeled placement of the huge CA05 module on top of base Unit 2 nuclear island a plant milestone.
SCE&G and its parent company, SCANA Corp., are building two new reactors originally projected to cost $9.8 billion at the V.C. Summer plant, among the first of their kind to be constructed in the U.S. in more than 30 years.
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When completed, the Unit 2 containment building will weigh about 4,000 tons, plant officials say, and stand more than 200 feet high having a 130-foot diameter. The CA05 module forms part of the chemical and volume control system tunnel and the passive core cooling system walls within the containment vessel.
The module consists of reinforced steel plates that will be filled with concrete to provide building support and room separation within the finished containment building, the company says. The containment building is a vital safety shield to containment radiation inherent in splitting atoms to harness heat energy.
About 3,300 workers, including lead contractor Westinghouse and subcontractor Chicago Bridge & Iron, are employed at the site in Fairfield County, about 25 miles north of Columbia.
SCANA and its ownership partner, state utility Santee Cooper, have come under strong criticism from the public, some of whom oppose nuclear power.
The main criticism of the consortium, though, surrounds the cost of the new plants, topped by the state’s allowance for SCE&G to bill its customers for the costs of the plant in advance of construction and operation.
Over the past year, the projected plant construction cost has ballooned by about $1.1 billion and electric rate payers have seen their electricity bills skyrocket. SCE&G says paying the finance costs of the new plants upfront lowers the final cost of the project.
SCANA, meanwhile, said it has not agreed to cost adjustments proposed for the plant by its contractors, who have had problems getting the manufactured components they need from their suppliers.
The matter of who owes for the cost overruns will have to be taken up by the Public Service Commission, probably sometime in early in 2015, company officials have said.
Earlier this year, site workers put in place the first of three containment vessel rings for the Unit 2 reactor. The final component of the containment vessel will be the top head of the vessel. However, completion dates for both the Unit 2 and Unit 3 Westinghouse AP1000 reactors have slipped from 2016 and 2017, likely to 2019 and 2020.