Photo Courtesy Georgia Power Company
Vogtle Progress A CA20 module (above), featuring components built at the Louisiana plant, is pictured next to the Unit 3 nuclear island (below).
Photo Courtesy Georgia Power Company

Workers at a problem-plagued prefabrication facility that supplies components to nuclear expansion projects in Georgia and South Carolina conspired to cheat on a welder qualification test, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

As a result of the violations, the NRC announced on Sept. 26 that, after mediation, CB&I has agreed to improve its quality-control and training measures at the Lake Charles, La., plant. The facility, known as Shaw Modular Solutions (SMS) prior to CB&I's 2013 acquisition of The Shaw Group, produces modular components for the Plant Vogtle project in Waynesboro, Ga., and the V.C. Summer project in Jenkensville, S.C. The agency did not assess any financial penalties.

SMS self-reported the violations, which occurred in 2010, to the NRC in 2011, after discovering them as a result of reviews associated with another investigation. The NRC completed its investigation into the issue in 2013, and mediation began in May of this year.

In a Feb. 20, 2014, letter, the NRC described the scheme, which involved three plant employees. According to the agency, a welder took a qualification test on behalf of a coworker, who was aware of the cheating. The test administrator certified the results despite knowing they were fraudulent.

The incident showed "there was not reasonable assurance that safety-related welding processes would be controlled and accomplished by qualified personnel in accordance with applicable codes and standards," the NRC stated.

CB&I was able to document that none of the plant's work product was affected by the welders in question. The company terminated all three workers.

According to the NRC announcement, CB&I has implemented a signature verification process and now is emphasizing in its training the significance of willful violations of federal regulations. The firm has revamped its weld production completion process, increased oversight of test controls and strengthened verification activities, the agency adds.

CB&I did not respond to ENR's repeated requests for comment.

Ongoing Quality-Control Issues

Operations at the Lake Charles facility have been an ongoing concern for the NRC. In 2013, after discovering a workforce fearful of retaliation for raising quality concerns—one worker was fired after noting faulty rebar—the NRC forced CB&I to enact measures to improve the plant's workplace culture.