Workers at Georgia Power's Vogtle nuclear plant in the USA on 11 February completed the final concrete placement inside the Vogtle 3 containment vessel.
This milestone allows installation of machinery that will be used to load fuel into the unit.
Georgia Power is building two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors as the Vogtle expansion project in Georgia. Vogtle unit 3 is expected to enter commercial operation in November 2021, with Vogtle 4 expected to follow 12 months later.
In 2019, Georgia Power announced it had ordered the first nuclear fuel load for Vogtle 3. It represented the first nuclear fuel order to be placed in more than 30 years for a newly-designed reactor in the USA.
The fuel, comprising 157 fuel assemblies each measuring 14 feet, will be loaded into the reactor vessel prior to start-up.
More than 22,000 tons of concrete has been placed inside the Vogtle 3 containment vessel since construction began.
At Vogtle 4, the final concrete placement of the operating deck has been completed, marking the last substantial concrete placement ahead of the containment vessel top lift in the coming months.
The Vogtle 3&4 project workforce has reached an all-time high with approximately 9000 workers now on site.
Major systems testing began in November at Vogtle 3 in preparation for cold hydro testing and hot functional testing later this year.
The project is already years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.
Public Service Commission (PSC) staff wrote in a report released in July 2019 that it would be a challenge for Georgia Power to make the state’s approved deadlines.
However, regulators concluded that if the company manages to complete the project on its latest schedule there is “a chance” it will stay within its latest budget estimates, in part because Georgia Power’s latest estimate includes $1.4 billion in contingency funds.
Construction of Vogtle 3 began in March 2013 and Vogtle 4 in November 2014. Southern Nuclear and Georgia Power, both subsidiaries of Southern Company, took over management of the project following Westinghouse's Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2017.
Southern Company owns 45.7% of the Vogtle project through Georgia Power. The other co-owners are Oglethorpe Power with 30%, MEAG Power with 22.7% and Dalton Utilities with the remaining 1.6%.
Photo: Vogtle construction site in February 2020 (Photo: © Georgia Power)