A Baton Rouge company finds itself among a consortium of project partners entangled in disputes over delays in the completion of the first new nuclear reactor to be licensed in the U.S. in some 30 years. The construction litigation centers on claims of unsatisfactory performance by the construction partners that may delay completion of the project by two to four years.

The new power plant will use modern Westinghouse reactors that can be constructed in modules to be transported and assembled on site. The new technology, intended to reduce the cost and construction time of new nuclear plants, has drawn the attention of energy experts who view the project as an indicator of the future of nuclear power projects in America.

The new $14 billion plant will be operated by Southern Nuclear on behalf of a number of utilities companies under the oversight of the Georgia Public Service Commission. A construction monitor employed by the commission says that welding problems, design revisions and other construction delays can be expected to set back the timeline for bringing the plant’s first reactor online.

Problems with fabrication of reactor modules were also among the issues cited by the construction monitor as causes of delay. The modules are being built by Baton Rouge based Shaw Group at its plant in Lake Charles. The industrial company says that its plant is a “world-class facility” and that module fabrication has nothing to do with any construction delays.

Although a spokesman for the reactor design company says that they welcome independent oversight of the project, tensions between the construction partners and the utility companies have led to a series of lawsuits. A spokesman for the operating firm says that he hopes a settlement can bring the construction litigation to an out-of-court resolution.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, New Nuclear Plant Hits Some Snags,” Rebecca Smith, Dec. 23, 2012