Georgia Power has announced completion of hot functional testing for Unit 4 at the US Vogtle nuclear expansion project near Waynesboro. This marks a significant step towards operations said Georgia Power “Unit 4 is projected to enter service in late fourth quarter 2023 or the first quarter 2024.”

Kim Greene, Chairman, President & CEO of Georgia Power, said enthusiasm at the Vogtle site is high “with unit 3 in the final stages of start-up testing and unit 4 making progress towards safely loading fuel”. She added: "The team at unit 4 has been able to take lessons learned and best practices from unit 3 and apply them. That has allowed us to safely complete hot functional testing on unit 4 in a significantly shorter time frame than we did for unit 3. It's incredible that these new units will provide our state with zero-emissions energy for the next 60 to 80 years.”

During hot functional testing, plant systems achieved normal operating pressure and temperature, without nuclear fuel in the reactor, to demonstrate the systems will operate on an integrated basis as designed. Now, the site team will complete the remaining work necessary to submit documentation to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). This will show that all inspection, tests and analyses have been performed and all acceptance criteria, collectively known as ITAACS, have been met for Vogtle 4 as required by Southern Nuclear’s Combined Operating Licence. Each ITAAC closure notice must be verified before fuel can be loaded into the reactor.

Vogtle 3&4 are both 1,117 MWe Westinghouse AP1000 reactors.

Units 1&2 (1,215 MWe reactors supplied by Westinghouse) were completed in 1987 and 1989. In 2009, NRC renewed their licences for an additional 20 years. Georgia Public Service Commission approved the new reactors for the Vogtle expansion in early 2009 and construction activities began the same year. At that time Vogtle 3&4 were expected to cost about $14bn and to enter service in 2016 and 2017 but suffered a series of delays.

Vogtle 3&4 are co-owned by Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities, and will be operated by Southern Nuclear. Georgia Power Southern Nuclear are both subsidiaries of Southern Company.

Image: Vogtle unit 4 (courtesy of Georgia Power)