News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, November 11, 2010
WAYNESBORO, GA. -- They might look like Tonka trucks, but the giant rigs rolling through Plant Vogtle aren't for kids.
The big boy toys at Plant Vogtle are constructing the groundwork for the third and fourth nuclear reactors, which will power millions of homes.
"We've excavated two areas down 90 feet to solid rock," said Southern Company's David Jones. "Now we're in the backfield process and actually forming the foundation."
Jones himself is something of a foundation for Plant Vogtle. He is one of few who was with the company about 30 years ago when they built the first reactors.
"I didn't believe there would be a nuclear plant built in my career or my lifetime," Jones said. "For this to be built here is just a dream come true."
About 1,500 people are in hard hats working at the site right now, but at its peak in 2014, officials expect there to be up to 3,500 workers. In the 80s, when the current reactors and cooling towers were built, officials said 14,000 workers constructed it.
"There's significant change in construction, and we didn't have that 30 years ago," Jones said about the differences in the current reactors and the future reactors.
Jones says newer technology, quicker licensing, and better design work together to build the newest addition with fewer workers. The main difference is modular construction.
"We'll have major pieces of equipment set into place," Jones said. "Floors, walls and ceilings that will be assembled outside the main power block and then lifted and set into place."
That's done in a building behind the big dig, where the reactors will sit. Modular construction pieces together the parts of everything on the site other than the actual nuclear reactors, Jones said.
By doing that, they expect it to turn into an eco-friendly, cost effective national treasure right in our backyard.
"It is absolutely the right solution for our energy that we need going forward," Jones said.
Leaders expect the third reactor to be finished in 2016 and the fourth in 2017. They expect to have the licensing all finished by next year, which is when the design will be finalized.
The nuclear reactor parts are shipped in from overseas, whereas the modular pieces come from the United States, Jones said. He doesn't know how many jobs it creates, but he said it does employ hundreds around the world to complete the project.