Georgia Power has begun the process of loading fuel into the Vogtle plant’s Unit 4 reactor, the company announced yesterday, marking another pivotal milestone toward commercial operation of the second of the facility’s two new units.
Authorization for fuel load arrived July 28 via a Nuclear Regulatory Commission NRC letter to Vogtle operator 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.
During the fuel loading process, nuclear technicians from reactor supplier Westinghouse and Southern Nuclear operators will install 157 fuel assemblies into the Vogtle-4 reactor core.
Next is startup testing, which 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. 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-4 is projected to be placed in service late in fourth quarter 2023 or first quarter 2024.
In case you’ve been in a coma: Unit 3 at Vogtle entered commercial operation on July 31, becoming the first newly constructed power reactor in the United States in more than 30 years and the nation’s first Gen III+ AP1000 unit to be placed into service. The new unit joined Vogtle-1 and -2, 1,169-MWe four-loop pressurized water reactors that entered service in the late 1980s.
Both Vogtle-3 and -4 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.