Costs and Deadlines Continue to Challenge V.C. Summer Nuclear Plant Project

With all 40 remaining construction milestones for V.C. Summer Nuclear Station Units 2 and 3 behind schedule (33 by more than 18 months) as of June 30, South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. (SCE&G) awaits approval of the petition it filed with the Public Service Commission of South Carolina (SCPSC) to update its construction and capital cost schedules.

The SCPSC is considering the petition, filed in March, under Docket No. 2015-103-E. If approved, new milestone dates will be established based on the latest projections supplied to SCE&G by the construction consortium—a joint venture between Westinghouse Electric Co. (WEC) and CB&I—in its revised, fully integrated construction schedule. Current estimates suggest that substantial completion for Unit 2 will occur on June 19, 2019, with Unit 3 following roughly a year later. The SCPSC is expected to issue a final order by Sept. 10.

Nuclear Plant Status Update

SCE&G released its most recent status report for the project on August 14, pegging gross construction costs for Units 2 and 3 at $12,462,370,000, nearly $2 billion more than was approved by the SCPSC on Nov. 15, 2012.  The increased costs are attributed at least in part to higher engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract charges resulting from project delays, failure of the construction consortium to meet its original estimates of labor productivity and indirect labor costs, and increased scopes of work for licensing and first-of-a-kind testing. SCE&G maintains that some of the work is fixed or firm under the EPC contract. Negotiations are ongoing to resolve the disputed costs.

The report provides the status of the project through June 30. At the time, 106 of the 146 milestones specified for reporting purposes in the Base Load Review Act had been completed. At least two milestones have been accomplished since that time.

Construction Project Milestones

The first was completed on July 17 when the first six-panel course of shield building panels was placed. Weighing 30,000 pounds and spanning 40 feet long each, the panels will be welded together. Concrete will then be poured inside the panels to create the shield building. When complete, the reinforced concrete structure will surround the containment vessel providing an additional layer of safety for the nuclear plant.

The fabrication of the shield building panels is currently the primary critical path activity for both units, that is, the job and sequence that must be completed in order for the project to finish in the shortest amount of time possible with no change in scope. Newport News Industrial is supplying the panels. SCE&G says the production schedule for the panels will require remediation in order to meet substantial completion deadlines, so the work has been a focus area for the company. At the end of June, WEC/CB&I had received 71 of 167 shield building panels for Unit 2 and 11 of the panels for Unit 3.

On July 23, another significant milestone was completed when the 2.4-million pound CA01 module, designed to house a number of major components within the Unit 2 containment vessel, was set in place (Figure 1). The CA01 module is a multi-compartment steel structure approximately 90 feet long, 95 feet wide, and 80 feet high. The module—considered a super module because it is too large to transport—was assembled on the construction site in a 12-story module assembly building.

1. Wide load.
The 2.4-million pound CA01 module was placed on July 23. Courtesy: SCE&G

This was the first Westinghouse AP1000 module of its kind to be placed in the U.S., and it is the heaviest lift on the V.C. Summer nuclear construction site. One of the world’s largest cranes, a heavy-lift derrick standing approximately 560-feet tall, was used to lift the massive module.

“Successful placement of this major module demonstrates the progress being made with our new nuclear units that are under construction at V.C. Summer,” said Kevin Marsh, chairman and CEO of SCANA Corp. (the parent company of SCE&G). “Adding more nuclear energy to our generation mix is the best solution for providing South Carolina large-scale energy that is clean, safe, and reliable, as well as cost-effective over the long-term.”

The fabrication and delivery of submodules is said to be an important focus area for the project. As of June 30, approximately 85% of the major equipment—that with a cost of $10 million or greater—for Unit 2 had been delivered to the project, while 53% of Unit 3’s major equipment had been received.

Safety First

According to SCE&G’s status report, construction is progressing safely. “The project continues to maintain an excellent safety record that exceeds industry expectations for projects of comparable size.” It notes that approximately 3,500 WEC/CB&I personnel and subcontractors are working at the site each day, but no specific injury rates were provided in the public version of the report.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)