US-based Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Co, announced that unit 4 at the Vogtle nuclear expansion project near Waynesboro, Georgia, has been connected to the electric grid for the first time. This follows initial criticality, which was achieved in mid-February. Georgia Power said grid connection is part of ongoing start-up testing for Vogtle 4. Operators will continue to raise reactor power while performing tests at various power levels until it reaches to 100%. Once all start-up testing is completed and the unit is available for reliable dispatch, Vogtle 4 will enter commercial operation. The in-service date for Unit 4 is projected during the second quarter of 2024.

Vogtle 3&4 are both 1,117 MWe Westinghouse AP1000 pressurised water reactors (PWRs). The two units were originally expected to cost about $14bn and to enter service in 2016 and 2017 but suffered a series of delays, including Westinghouse’s bankruptcy in 2017. The total cost of the project to build Vogtle 3&4 is now put at more than $30bn. Georgia Power owns 45.7% of the project; Oglethorpe Power Corp owns 30%; the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG) owns 22.7%; and the city of Dalton owns 1.6%. The units will be operated by Southern Nuclear.

The Vogtle site already hosts to two operating pressurised water reactors. Unit 3 – the first new nuclear unit to be built in the USA for more than three decades – reached initial criticality in March 2023, and began commercial operation the following July.

Image: Vogtle unit 4 (courtesy of Georgia Power)