Feds conduct special inspection after damage during construction at SC nuclear plant

Energy Associated Press

A special inspection is underway after damage to a nuclear reactor under construction in South Carolina, federal regulators said Monday.

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In a news release, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said its representatives are launching a special inspection this week at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station near Jenkinsville, about 25 miles northwest of Columbia.

Earlier this month, the NRC says that Chicago Bridge & Iron workers cut rebar and damaged a containment vessel while drilling into concrete. Officials think the damage was minor but are concerned that it took the contractor a week to report it to SCANA Corp., which owns a 55 percent stake in the new reactors.

The NRC said that inspectors will spend about a week at the site, and their report will be available within about 45 days. A SCANA spokeswoman said that the company had already begun to address the issue and that the public was never at risk.

"With a construction project of this size and scope, we expect that there will be issues along the way," Rhonda O'Banion said. "We will continue to address the issues with a firm focus on quality and safety."

One reactor is already in use at the site, and Santee Cooper and SCANA are partnering up to build two more. The new reactors have been estimated to cost nearly $10 billion and are among the first of their kind to be built in the United States in more than 30 years, slated to come online in 2019 and 2020.

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Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP