COVID impact on nuclear construction projects not yet clear


The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and related government responses could disrupt or delay construction, testing, supervisory and support activities at the Vogtle 3 and 4 construction project, but it is too early to say what those effects will be, Southern Company has told the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Russia’s Rosatom is looking into the possibility of returning part of the Russian personnel from overseas nuclear power plant construction sites.

The restrictions on travel, public gatherings and certain business operations introduced by the USA and other jurisdictions in response to the novel coronavirus have significantly disrupted economic activity in the service territories of Southern Company’s utility subsidiaries and have caused volatility in capital markets, it said in its 1 April financial filing.

“The effects of the continued outbreak of COVID-19 and related government responses could include extended disruptions to supply chains and capital markets, reduced labour availability and productivity and a prolonged reduction in economic activity,” it said. “These effects could have a variety of adverse impacts on the company and its subsidiaries, including reduced demand for energy, particularly from commercial and industrial customers, impairment of goodwill or long-lived assets and impairment of the ability of the company and its subsidiaries to develop, construct and operate facilities and to access funds from financial institutions and capital markets. In particular, these effects could disrupt or delay construction, testing, supervisory and support activities at Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4.”

The units’ licensee, Southern Nuclear Operating Company, Inc, has implemented policies and procedures designed to mitigate the risk of transmission at the construction site, including worker distancing measures, isolating individuals who are showing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, being tested for COVID-19 or who have been in close contact with such persons, requiring self-quarantine and adopting additional precautionary measures, the company said. “It is too early to determine what impact, if any, the COVID-19 outbreak will have on the current construction schedule or budget for Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4,” it added.

Rosatom General Director Alexey Likhachev said on 1 April the company was working to give Rosatom personnel working on construction sites abroad the chance to return home. “Everyone will be given the opportunity to return in the very next few days,” he said. According to World Nuclear Association, seven Russian-designed reactors are currently under construction in Belarus, India, Bangladesh and Turkey.

Likhachev also said that the entire operational staff working in the control rooms at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant have been isolated after an employee fell ill with coronavirus. All employees from the five duty shifts now living separately from families in a local clinic, and travel to the plant by special transport, he said.