Vogtle 3 begins commercial operation

3 August 2023

Unit 3 of Georgia Power’s Vogtle NPP, the first new reactor to start-up in the USA since 2016, finally began commercial operation on 31 July. The unit was connected to the electricity grid in April and reached full power on 30 May but commercial operation was delayed because of a problem in the hydrogen system that is used to cool its main electrical generator.

Georgia Power said the in-service date for Vogtle 4 is expected during late fourth quarter 2023 or the first quarter 2024. The unit completed hot functional testing in May, in significantly less time than unit 3 “as the team continues leveraging best practices and learnings from the earlier unit”.

Vogtle 3&4 are both 1,117 MWe Westinghouse AP1000 presurised water reactors (PWRs). Units 1&2 (1,215 MWe reactors also supplied by Westinghouse) were completed in 1987 and 1989. In 2009, the US Nuclear Regulatory Authority renewed their licences for an additional 20 years. Georgia Public Service Commission approved the new reactors for the Vogtle expansion that year and construction activities began.

Vogtle 3&4 were originally expected to cost about $14bn and to enter service in 2016 and 2017 but suffered a series of delays, including as a result of 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 Plant Vogtle 3 & 4 nuclear expansion is another incredible example of how Georgia Power is building a reliable and resilient energy future for our state,” said Kim Greene, Chairman, President and CEO of Georgia Power. “It is important that we make these kinds of long-term investments and see them through so we can continue providing clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy to our 2.7 million customers.”

Chris Womack, President & CEO of Southern Company said: “With unit 3 completed, and unit 4 in the final stages of construction and testing, this project shows just how new nuclear can and will play a critical role in achieving a clean energy future for the United States.”

Westinghouse President & CEO Patrick Fragman said Westinghouse will continue to work closely with the team as Southern Nuclear prepares for the next major milestone of synchronising the unit to the electric grid, which will be followed by full commercial operation.

"We can do new nuclear energy in America, and we must continue to do new nuclear in America,” he said. "The lessons-learned, and the experience gained through these vital units at Vogtle, as well as the competencies and capabilities we built with our supply chain, prepare Westinghouse well for continued new nuclear units to address our climate change and energy security objectives."

The announcement came a few days after the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a 103(g) finding authorising fuel loading and the start of operations at Vogtle 4, which is now in the final stages of construction and testing. The 157 fuel assemblies that will make up the first core are already on site.

Vogtle already hosts two PWRs. Georgia Power said, with all four units in operation, it will become the largest generator of clean energy in the USA.

Image: Vogtle 3 (courtesy of Georgia Power)

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