US-based Georgia Power says unit 3 at the Vogtle NPP has reached 100% power, marking a major milestone towards commercial operation. “This milestone marks the maximum energy the unit is licensed to produce in the reactor core and is the first time the unit has reached its expected output of approximately 1,100 MWe,” the company notes.

“Unit 3 is currently undergoing testing through the full range of plant operations, including safely running at various power levels and operating through real-life conditions just as it will over the next 60 to 80 years after the unit enters commercial operation,” said Kim Greene, Chairman, President & CEO of Georgia Power.

Testing at the 100% power level is focused on the operation of the reactor, plant control systems for the reactor and support systems, and integrated plant operations. Plant performance is monitored at various conditions and data is gathered and evaluated by site engineers. With the unit reaching full power for the first time, other tests must be performed at this power level before the unit is available for reliable dispatch in accordance with its combined operating licence.

Once all start-up testing is completed and the unit is available for reliable dispatch, Vogtle 3 will begin commercial operation. This is expected in June.

Meanwhile, Vogtle 4 gas begun receiving nuclear fuel. Since the first fuel delivery in early May, 157 fuel assemblies have arrived by truck in shipping cannisters designed to transport non-irradiated uranium fuel assemblies. Once delivered, assemblies are removed from the cannisters, one-by-one, and lifted into the fuel handling area, where they are inspected and safely stored in a fuel vault prior to fuel load, which is projected to occur later this year. Hot functional testing for unit 4 has been completed

Vogtle 3&4 are both 1,117 MWe Westinghouse AP1000 reactors. 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 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, including as a result of Westinghouse’s bankruptcy in 2017.

The total cost of the project to build Vogtle 3&4 will cost its owners 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. Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear are both subsidiaries of Southern Company.

Image: The Vogtle 3 site (courtesy of Georgia Power)