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Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - 11:24am

Georgia Power Admits Rebar 'Failure'

Georgia Power executives say the nuclear reactors under construction at Plant Vogtle in eastern Georgia have safety features that will prevent a disaster like the one that occurred last year at a Japanese plant. But what remains unclear is how much those reactors will cost consumers.

The utility’s executives were at a seminar on a nuclear power renaissance in the U.S. Plant Vogtle will be the country’s first new plant in 30 years.

They said the plant will have extra equipment and more emergency staff.

Another feature will be sturdier concrete. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission OK’d a change last week to the plant’s design.

Georgia Power had allowed installation of concrete-enforced metal bars that differed from what federal officials had approved.

Cheri Collins, with Southern Company, Georgia Power’s parent company, said the problem was:

“Our issues with our own failure to do this according to the certified design and then a licensed amendment request suggesting to the NRC that we could add to the strength of the concrete,” she said.

The mistake caused delays, likely adding to construction costs.

The seminar was part of France-Atlanta, a two-week cultural exchange.

Despite the theme of a nuclear renaissance, French officials at the seminar said they plan to dramatically reduce France’s dependence on nuclear power.

The French are among the top users of nuclear energy.

French companies met with Georgia Power executives at the seminar to discuss potential contracts for Plant Vogtle.

Cyril Pinel is with the French Embassy in Washington. He said the French people will consider this change next year but he strongly denied that France was turning away from nuclear power.

“It’s just once again, a goal of having a more balanced energy-mix," he said. "So it’s not a phasing out.”

Pinel said if approved, France would derive 50 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, rather than the current 75 percent, which he said was probably too high to begin with.

Georgia Power officials said nuclear power will just be one "more arrow in the quiver" for the utility and France's decision didn't indicate nuclear power was a bad choice.

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