The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has authorized Southern Nuclear Operating Company to begin loading fuel into Unit 4 at the Vogtle nuclear expansion site near Waynesboro, Ga., making the unit the second reactor to reach this milestone in the agency’s combined license process—a little less than one year after Vogtle-3. (Prior to 1989, reactors were licensed under a two-step process, requiring both a construction permit and an operating license.)
The authorization came July 28 via an NRC letter to Southern Nuclear verifying the company’s July 20 notification to the agency that all 364 inspections, tests, and analyses for the unit had been performed, and all acceptance criteria met—a prerequisite for commencing fuel load.
Vogtle-4 now moves out of the NRC’s construction reactor oversight process and into its operating reactor oversight process. Information supporting the decision to allow fuel load to begin at the unit is available on the NRC’s website.
The official words: “Our work in approving Unit 4 to move forward benefitted from what we learned in licensing Unit 3,” said Andrea Veil, director of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, in an agency press release. “We’re satisfied that Vogtle Unit 4 has been properly built and will protect public health and safety as it follows Unit 3 on the path to operation. NRC staff working at the site, in our Atlanta office, and here at headquarters will continue monitoring Unit 4’s activities as the fuel load and startup testing move forward.”
According to an announcement from Georgia Power, the Vogtle plant’s primary owner, “The team at the site continues working diligently to make final preparations for Vogtle-4 fuel load, initiate startup testing, and bring the unit online.” The company said that fuel load “will be followed by several months of startup testing and operations. Startup testing is 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.
“The new Vogtle units are an essential part of Georgia Power’s commitment to delivering clean, safe, reliable, and affordable energy to its 2.7 million customers. Once operating, each of the new units can produce enough electricity to power an estimated 500,000 homes and businesses.”