by Joan Tupponce
The opening date of the Areva Newport News nuclear components manufacturing plant may be delayed a year, but construction is moving forward at a steady pace.
“Construction is going very well,” says Jarret Adams, a spokesman for the international energy company Areva Inc. “We have adjusted the construction schedule to meet our customers’ planning timetables and to ensure we have the production capabilities when our customers need components.”
Areva pushed back its completion date from 2012 to 2013 in August. “It came down to market conditions,” Adams says. “In this slower economy, the demand for electricity is not growing as fast as before. New power plant projects are progressing more slowly.”
The 330,000-square-foot facility, which will manufacture heavy components for nuclear power plants, is a joint venture between Areva and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, a business unit of Northrop Grumman Corp., a global defense and technology company.
The plant represents an investment of more than $360 million and is expected to create more than 500 jobs. To date, about $25 million has been spent on the project.
The current lack of government loan guarantees for large projects such as nuclear plants also factors into the delay. “So far the government has only issued one nuclear plant loan guarantee since the loan guarantee program was initiated in 2005,” Adams says.
The Newport News project is using the services of several local firms, such as Waterfront Marine Construction Inc. in Virginia Beach, which has a multimillion-dollar contract for pile driving. To date, the company has already driven 4,800 of the 5,900 pilings into the ground. Waterfront purchases the concrete piles from Bayshore Concrete Products in Chesapeake. Schnabel Engineering’s Newport News office is monitoring the pile driving and also performing environmental sampling.
Areva and Northrop Grumman remain fully committed to finishing the project, Adams says. “We feel very positive [about] the market for nuclear equipment in the U.S.,” he says. “We hope to begin manufacturing in 2013.”
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