Georgia Power announced this morning that fuel loading at Vogtle-3 has commenced, marking an important milestone on what has proved to be a long and bumpy road to startup and commercial operation of the first new nuclear power reactors to be built in the United States in more than three decades. (Major work on the Vogtle-3 and -4 project began in 2012, with a price tag of $14 billion and scheduled unit start dates of 2016 and 2017. The project’s total cost is now expected to exceed $30 billion.)
Vogtle operator Southern Nuclear received the go-ahead for the unit’s fuel load from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in August. In the coming days, 157 fuel assemblies will be transferred one by one from the Unit 3 spent fuel pool to the reactor core.
Next up, according to the announcement, is startup testing—designed to demonstrate the integrated operation of the primary coolant system and steam supply system at design temperature and pressure with fuel inside the reactor. Operators will also bring the plant from cold shutdown to initial criticality, synchronize the unit to the electric grid, and systematically raise power to 100 percent.
Vogtle-3 is projected to enter service in the first quarter of 2023, followed by Vogtle-4 by the end of that year. Once operating, the units are expected to power more than 500,000 homes and businesses.
What they’re saying: “The Vogtle-3 and -4 nuclear units represent a critical, long-term investment in our state’s energy future, and the milestone of loading fuel for Unit 3 demonstrates the steady and evident progress at the nuclear expansion site,” said Chris Womack, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Georgia Power. “We're making history here in Georgia and the U.S. These units are important to building the future of energy and will serve as clean, emission-free sources of energy for Georgians for the next 60 to 80 years.”
Patrick Fragman, president and CEO of Westinghouse, supplier of the new Vogtle units, said, “This is an exciting and important milestone to bring our proven AP1000 reactor to the very last stage before starting to generate clean, affordable, and reliable power in America. The AP1000, the most advanced next-generation nuclear reactor available in the world, will help advance the nation’s climate change and energy security goals.”