The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has authorised Southern Nuclear Operating Company to load nuclear fuel and begin operation at unit 3 of the Vogtle NPP in Georgia, the first reactor to reach this point in the agency’s combined licence process. SNC recently informed the agency that the company had completed the inspections, tests, analyses, and acceptance criteria needed to show Vogtle 3 can begin safe operations.

“This is the first time we’ve authorised a reactor’s initial start-up through our Part 52 licensing process,” said Andrea Veil, Director of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. “Before authorisation, we independently verified that Vogtle unit 3 has been properly built and will protect public health and safety when it transitions to operation. Our resident inspectors at Vogtle will keep a close eye on unit 3 as the fuel load and start-up testing move forward. We’re focused on safety so the country can use Vogtle’s additional carbon-free electricity. We will maintain this focus as we license the next generation of new reactors.”

The NRC’s decision moves Vogtle unit 3, adjacent to the operating units 1 and 2, near Waynesboro, Georgia, out of the construction reactor oversight programme and into the operating reactor oversight process. Vogtle 4 remains under construction. The Vogtle 3&4 1117MWe Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, the only new nuclear power units under construction in the USA, are already billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.

Image: Vogtle nuclear power plant's unit 3 (source: Georgia Power)