To the ears of the nuclear community, the news from Georgia Power this morning may sound a bit like “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth: After years of delay, Unit 3 at the Vogtle nuclear power plant has entered commercial operation, becoming the first newly constructed power reactor in the United States in more than 30 years and the nation’s first Westinghouse-supplied Generation III+ AP1000 unit to be placed into service. The new unit joins Vogtle-1 and -2—1,169-MWe four-loop pressurized water reactors that entered commercial operation in the late 1980s.
The long-awaited announcement came just days after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission authorized fuel load at Vogtle-3’s twin, Unit 4, which is currently expected to begin commercial operation in the fourth quarter of this year or first quarter of 2024.
Both units sport a net capacity of 1,100 MWe and are capable of powering an estimated 500,000 homes and businesses. According to Georgia Power, once Vogtle-4 joins Units 1–3 on line, the Waynesboro, Ga., nuclear facility will be the largest generator of clean energy in the United States.
Georgia Power is Vogtle’s primary owner, at 45.7 percent. Co-owners include Oglethorpe Power (30 percent), the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (22.7 percent), and Dalton Utilities (1.6 percent). The plant is operated by Georgia Power’s fellow Southern Company subsidiary Southern Nuclear.
From the C-suite: “The Plant Vogtle-3 and -4 nuclear expansion is another incredible example of how Georgia Power is building a reliable and resilient energy future for our state,” declared Kim Greene, the company’s chairman, president, and chief executive officer. “It is important that we make these kinds of long-term investments and see them through so we can continue providing clean, safe, reliable, and affordable energy to our 2.7 million customers. Today’s achievement is a testament to our commitment to doing just that, and it marks the first day of the next 60 to 80 years that Vogtle Unit 3 will serve our customers with clean, reliable energy.”
Chris Womack, president and CEO of Southern Company, noted the historic nature of the news for his firm, the state of Georgia, and the entire energy sector, adding, “With Unit 3 completed, and Unit 4 in the final stages of construction and testing, this project shows just how new nuclear can and will play a critical role in achieving a clean energy future for the United States. Bringing this unit safely into service is a credit to the hard work and dedication of our teams at Southern Company and the thousands of additional workers who have helped build that future at this site, as well as all of the partners who have helped make this day a reality.”
Patrick Fragman, Westinghouse president and CEO, chimed in as well, stating, “We can do new nuclear energy in America, and we must continue to do new nuclear in America. The lessons learned, and the experience gained through these vital units at Vogtle, as well as the competencies and capabilities we built with our supply chain, prepare Westinghouse well for continued new nuclear units to address our climate change and energy security objectives.”