800 Covid cases at America’s only nuclear construction site

The electricity company building two new reactors at a nuclear power plant in the US state of Georgia has revealed that more than 800 construction workers at the site have tested positive for Covid-19 since the pandemic began.

In a filing to the state government on 28 August, Georgia Power said 109 of those cases were still active, while 700 workers who had tested positive for the disease were now eligible to return to work, reports The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Before the pandemic, some 7,000 workers were on site building reactors 3 and 4 for the Plant Vogtle power station located just south of Augusta.

Then, as absenteeism rates rose, Georgia Power sent 2,000 workers home in a bid to curb the spread, according to the newspaper.

Citing privacy laws, the company declined to tell the Journal-Constitution if any workers had died or been hospitalised.

The virus brings more trouble to the project, which is currently the only active commercial nuclear new-build scheme in the US.

It is billions of dollars over the original budget, and years late: when construction began, the two units had been scheduled to start operating in 2016 and 2017.

In June, a study commissioned by the Georgia Public Service Commission led it to warn that even without the coronavirus, the project’s costs would rise by another $1bn, and that the project was "highly unlikely" to meet the latest deadlines of November 2021 and November 2022, reports the Journal-Constitution. 

Image: A water tank being craned into position on Vogtle Unit 3 reactor in May 2020 (Georgia Power Company)

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