Is a New Reactor Rust-Prone?

From the New York Times:

Approval of the design for the Westinghouse AP 1000 reactor is slowly moving forward at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as are financial arrangements for building the nation’s first one, near Augusta, Ga. Yet the argument about whether its design is safer than past models is advancing, too.

On June 18, the Southern Company, the utility holding company that is building it, and the Department of Energy announced that they had come to final terms on a federal loan guarantee that would allow the project to go forward. The guarantee is for 70 percent of the company’s costs, not to exceed $3.4 billion. (Georgia Power, the Southern subsidiary building the plant, owns 45.7 percent of it; other partners also got loan guarantees.)

Lots of details have yet to be agreed upon, though. One is that the reactor is surrounded by a shield building meant to protect it from hazards like crashing airplanes, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not convinced that the shield building would survive earthquakes and other natural hazards. Westinghouse, a subsidiary of Toshiba, is doing new analytical work to try to convince the commission staff of its safety.

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