More adjustments to Vogtle milestone dates likely

The initial shipment of nuclear fuel for Unit 3 arrives at the Vogtle site in December. Photo: Georgia Power

Largely as a result of the continuing COVID-19 crisis, the Vogtle reactor-construction project team expects to further adjust dates for achieving key project milestones, including the start of hot functional testing and fuel load for Unit 3, Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power announced on January 11.

The company added, however, that it continues to expect to bring Unit 3 into service this November and Unit 4 into service in November 2022. Additional updates on the project will be provided during Southern’s quarterly earnings call next month.

First fuel shipment for Vogtle-3 delivered

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.

Vogtle project team reports delays, holds to approved start dates

In testimony filed last week with the Georgia Public Service Commission, Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear acknowledge that the “aggressive” target dates set in July for some of the Vogtle construction project’s upcoming milestones have had to be pushed back by a few months. At the same time, however, the companies continue to express confidence in being able to meet the regulatory-approved commercial start dates for the new reactors—November 2021 for Unit 3 and November 2022 for Unit 4.

The testimony was filed in support of Georgia Power’s Twenty-third Semi-annual Vogtle Construction Monitoring Report, released in August, which covers the period from January 1 to June 30, 2020.

Major milestone reached at Vogtle-3

Vogtle-3, in September. Photo: Georgia Power

Georgia Power has announced the completion of cold hydro testing at Vogtle-3, one of two 1,100-MWe Westinghouse AP1000 pressurized water reactors under construction at the Vogtle site near Waynesboro, Ga.

Unit 3 construction is now approximately 94 percent complete, and the total Vogtle-3 and -4 expansion project is about 88 percent complete, according to the company’s October 19 announcement. The last major test for Vogtle-3 before initial fuel loading is hot functional testing.

Cold hydro testing of Unit 3 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, Georgia Power said. The company also noted that it expects to meet the regulatory-approved in-service dates for the new reactors: November 2021 for Unit 3, and November 2022 for Unit 4.