NRC Approves Full Power License For $9 Billion Plant
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Georgia Power Co. is being allowed to proceed with full power operation of the nearly $9 billion Unit 1 reactor at the Vogtle Nuclear Power plant in east Georgia.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted 4-0 Thursday to authorize a full- power license for the reactor after the commission staff recommended unanimously that the license be approved.
″We commit to you and to the public that we will utilize our resources to assure the safe operation of Plant Vogtle,″ Georgia Power Chairman Robert Scherer told the commission prior to the vote.
Georgia Power, which has responsibility for construction and operation of the plant, owns 45.7 percent of the twin-reactor project, whose cost has escalated from original estimates of $660 million to $8.87 billion.
The utility received permission from the NRC staff in January to load fuel in the reactor and begin a series of low-power tests. NRC staff members told the commission Thursday that no major problems developed during those tests.
George Bockhold Jr., general manager of Vogtle nuclear operations for Georgia Power, said the reactor will be ready to exceed 5 percent power on Monday and will complete its full-power testing program by mid-May.
Commissioner James K. Asselstine raised the only questions about the license prior to the vote, asking both utility officials and the NRC staff if the company could operate Plant Vogtle while working to improve operations at Plant Hatch, the company’s other nuclear plant, near Baxley, Ga.
Malcolm Ernst, a staffer from the NRC southeast region, said Georgia Power ″certainly has the management horsepower″ to handle both plants. He said operations at Hatch have been improving while the company’s performance at Vogtle is ″certainly favorable compared to other plants at this stage of licensing.″
NRC Chairman Lando W. Zech Jr. commended Georgia Power for involving its senior managers in the development and construction of the plant and for instituting a series of training programs for plant personnel.
Zech said such programs, coupled with the utility’s unusual success in attracting college-educated plant operators, indicates that Georgia Power understands the principle that ″people really are the primary contributor to a reliable, safe operation.″
Zech and other commissioners also praised Georgia Power for its readiness review program, which was set up several years ago to provide early identification and correction of problems that could hold up the licensing process.
Plant Vogtle has been under construction in Burke County, Ga., since 1978. The second reactor at the plant originally was scheduled for operation in September 1988, but the company earlier this week said the start up now is not expected before June 1989.
In addition to Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power Corp. owns 30 percent of the plant, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia owns 22.7 percent, and the city of Dalton 1.6 percent.