Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power has announced the receipt of the initial shipment of nuclear fuel for Vogtle-3, characterizing the event as a “major step” for the two-unit nuclear expansion project currently under way at the Vogtle nuclear power plant near Waynesboro, Ga.
Next step: With the receipt of the first nuclear fuel assemblies, the project is now focused on one of the major milestones for Unit 3, hot functional testing, the last critical step before fuel load and, ultimately, in-service operation, Georgia Power said.
In October, Vogtle plant operator Southern Nuclear announced a readjustment of its July 2020 “aggressive site schedule” dates for Unit 3 hot functional testing, fuel load, and commercial operation. The dates were moved from October 2020, December 2020, and May 2021, respectively, to January 2021, April 2021, and the third quarter of 2021. Southern Nuclear said that hot functional testing could start as late as the end of March 2021 and fuel load as late as mid-year 2021 without jeopardizing Vogtle-3’s November 2021 regulatory approved in-service date.
Previous steps: Vogtle project milestones achieved in 2020 include the following, according to Georgia Power:
■ Completion of Unit 3 cold hydro testing—This confirmed that the reactor’s coolant system functions as designed and verified that the welds, joints, pipes, and other components of the coolant system and associated high-pressure systems do not leak when under pressure.
■ Completion of emergency preparedness drill—Vogtle-3 and -4 completed a required exercise for a simulated emergency event for Unit 3. Teams participated in the simulation and demonstrated their ability to effectively respond and protect public health and safety.
■ Issuance of licenses for Vogtle-3 and -4 operators—The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued the first operator licenses to 62 reactor and senior reactor operators for Units 3 and 4.
■ Completion of closed vessel testing—This prepared Unit 3 for cold hydro testing. Closed vessel testing verified that the pipes and valves in the Unit 3 reactor coolant system were installed as designed and helped ensure that safety systems function properly.
■ Completion of structural integrity test and integrated leak rate test—The tests were completed in succession and demonstrated that the Unit 3 containment vessel meets construction quality and design requirements.
■ Placement of final module for Unit 3—The water tank that sits atop the containment vessel and shield building roof, known as module CB-20, is a major part of the AP1000 reactor’s advanced safety system. It will hold approximately 750,000 gallons of water ready to flow down in the event of an emergency to help cool the reactor.
■ Placement of Unit 3’s integrated head package (IHP) atop the reactor vessel—Standing 48 feet tall, weighing 475,000 pounds, and containing more than three miles of electrical cables, the IHP will eventually be used by nuclear operators to monitor and control the nuclear reaction that will occur inside the Unit 3 reactor vessel.
■ Completion of Unit 3 open vessel testing—This demonstrated how water flows from the key safety systems into the reactor vessel, ensuring that the paths are not blocked or constricted, and confirmed that the pumps, motors, valves, pipes, and other components of the systems function as designed.
■ Placement of polar crane and containment vessel top for Unit 4—This signified that all major lifts inside the containment vessels for both units are complete.
Future investment: “Since the start, the Vogtle expansion project has been an investment in our energy future,” said Paul Bowers, chairman and chief executive officer of Georgia Power, on December 9. “Today, as we receive our first nuclear fuel shipment, we remain committed to realizing the benefits this project will provide not only to our customers, but also our state and our country. Achieving this historic milestone brings us closer to fuel load, expected in April 2021, and, once on line, these new nuclear units will provide clean, carbon-free energy for the next 60 to 80 years.”