A three-judge panel will hear arguments this month on a petition regarding a change in thickness in concrete containment walls for Plant Vogtle’s two new nuclear reactors.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commis­sion’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, which hears legal challenges to the commission’s actions, will convene March 15 at Augusta’s Fede­ral Justice Center. Expected to present arguments are the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Concerned Citizens of Shell Bluff, NRC staffers and Southern Nu­clear, a Southern Co. subsidiary.

Vogtle is 45.7 percent owned by Geor­­gia Power, another Southern Co. entity, and the new reactors are expected to be operational by 2020.

According to an NRC news release, environmental activists are opposing a license amendment granted by the commission in De­cem­ber, contending that the proposed wall thickness “does not meet industry standards, does not meet worker radiation protection standards and has disproportionate impact on Shell Bluff residents” near the Waynes­boro, Ga., site.

The amendment, according to NRC records, revises the thickness of concrete walls of four “containment internal structural wall modules” at the new reactors. The proposed changes amount to a difference of less than an inch on walls that measure up to 9 feet thick, Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins said.

“The NRC approved the amendment request on Dec. 16, 2015, and issued the license amendment stating the changes, regarding five-eighths of an inch difference in thickness of concrete walls measuring up to 9 feet thick, do not impact employee or public safety.” he said in a written statement.

Hawkins said the amendment requests are a regular part of the construction process, and he pointed to an NRC evaluation that concluded “the margin provided by the reinforcement (for the thinner walls) and the volume of concrete (for the thicker walls) provides reasonable assurance that the tolerance changes will not compromise the intended safety functions of the affected walls.”

According to the document, the change doesn’t appear to result in any increase in the designated plant radiation zones, either.

The event is open to the public but seating is limited. Those wishing to attend are asked to contact Cooper Strickland at (301) 415-5880 or cooper.strickland@nrc.govby Wednesday.

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