Georgia Power has ordered the first nuclear fuel load for unit 4 of the Vogtle nuclear plant in the USA.
Fuel for Vogtle 3 of the two-unit expansion at Vogtle was ordered last summer.
The two Westinghouse AP1000 units, each with a capacity of 1117MWe, are being built at the existing Vogtle nuclear plant. The project is now approximately 84% complete, according to Georgia Power.
The order for Vogtle 4 comprises 157 fuel assemblies.
Georgia Power said: "After the initial fuelling, approximately one-third of the total fuel assemblies will be replaced during each refueling outage after the units begin operating, similar to the process used at existing Vogtle units 1 & 2.”
Georgia Power also said workers at Vogtle had installed 10 of the 16 shield building courses of panels that will surround the Vogtle 4 containment vessel.
The shield building is a unique feature of the AP1000 reactor design "providing an additional layer of safety around the containment vessel and nuclear reactor to protect the structure from any potential impacts,” Georgia Power said.
In February, Georgia Power reported that workers had completed the final concrete placement inside the Vogtle 3 containment vessel, which houses the reactor. This work allows the installation of machinery that will be used to load fuel into the unit, the company stated.
Vogtle 3&4 are scheduled to begin commercial operation in November 2021 and November 2022.
The construction of Vogtle 3&4 has faced repeated delays. The project was first approved in 2009 when the cost was put at about $14 billion, with an anticipated startup date of 2016. Currently, the project is estimated to cost $28 billion.
Vogtle 3&4 are the first commercial nuclear plants to be built in the USA in a generation, and the only new reactors currently under construction.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has determined that the construction of Vogtle 3&4 is meeting all public health and safety objectives. The NRC’s recently-released annual review considered the inspection results and enforcement actions over the previous year (2018). NRC determined that overall, the units “were being constructed in a manner that preserved public health and safety and met all cornerstone objectives” and “all inspection findings had very low safety significance.”
The NRC plans to visit Vogtle several times this year in advance of its planned startup in 2021. The inspections will include pre-service testing, process and effluent monitoring in the third quarter and security training and qualification in the fourth quarter.