Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Two nuclear plants are being built after a 30 year hiatus in USA

I was surprised when I saw a link to the video below in a crane group in Facebook. I had no idea that more nuclear power plants were being built in the USA.
(new window) This video suffers from the modern fad of having a bunch of short closeup views. I wish it also had included an overview of the Lampson transi-lift transitioning from walking to turning by rotating the back crawler tracks 90 degrees.

Two Westinghouse AP1000 (Advanced Passive) nuclear units
About 1,117 megawatts each
Productivity and Progress:
Significant progress continued in December at the Vogtle nuclear expansion site near Waynesboro, Georgia with the placement of nearly 1,300 cubic yards of concrete inside the Unit 4 containment vessel. The continuous placement lasted 21 hours, and involved more than 100 workers and more than 120 truckloads of concrete.

Construction photos    It is significant that there are 2019 photos on that page of photos. In 2018, because of cost overruns, there was a significant possibility of aborting the project. I haven't bothered to read the articles to see if the shareholders, federal taxpayers, and/or power company customers are getting screwed. [EEnews, SeekingAlpha]


Vogtle Units 3 and 4 are the first U.S. deployment of the AP1000 Generation III+ reactor. The AP1000 was designed as the next-generation nuclear reactor that could provide a standardized design for the U.S. utilities market. The reactor is an evolutionary improvement over existing reactors, featuring advanced safety systems. For example, the AP1000 can shut down passively without external power or human intervention. The AP1000 is built with modules manufactured off-site and then assembled onsite. This has the potential to improve quality and eases construction when compared to the last generation of nuclear reactors built in the U.S. In addition, the AP1000 has a smaller footprint and simpler design, and uses less piping, valves, and pumps than older designs.
The two new units will support 800 jobs. At first that sounds good. But I asked myself a long time ago: why does it take so many people to run a nuclear plant? Not only is there the obvious issue of labor costs, more people increases the opportunity for human error. ComEd plants would talk about 400 employees for a plant that has two units. So technology improvements have evidently not improved operational costs. Plus we still can't bury our nuclear waste in a mountain in Nevada.

The AP1000 design is a refinement of the two-loop pressurized water reactor design developed for nuclear submarines in the 1950s. It is not a new design such as a fast breeder reactor that creates fuel instead of nuclear waste (and potentially bombs).  I wish we had spent federal money making nuclear power economic and safe rather than continue to put people in space. (I do agree with putting scientific missions into space, just not people.) A related issue is that I remember in the 1980s that fusion was going to be working by the year 2000.


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