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.

NRC okays power uprate for Farley units

The Joseph M. Farley nuclear plant, in Columbia, Ala.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved Southern Nuclear Operating Company’s request to increase the capacity of the two Farley reactors by approximately 1.7 percent. The company applied for the requisite operating license amendments on October 30 of last year. The NRC issued the amendments on October 9.

Located in Columbia, Ala., the Farley plant houses two three-loop Westinghouse pressurized water reactors. Unit 1 was connected to the grid in 1977, and Unit 2 came on line in 1981.

According to an NRC press release on October 21, NRC staff determined that Southern Nuclear could safely increase both reactors’ heat output, primarily through more accurate means of measuring feedwater flow. Southern Nuclear is also improving some plant systems not regulated by the NRC to more efficiently convert the increased reactor output to electricity.

EIA: Nine of top 10 electricity generators in 2019 were nuclear plants

Graph: EIA

Of the 10 U.S. power plants that generated the most electricity in 2019, nine were nuclear plants, a recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration states.

These 10 facilities produced a combined 230 million megawatt hours of electricity last year, accounting for 5.6 percent of all electricity generation in the United States, according to the report. The report also notes a shift in the makeup of the top plants over the past 10 years, from a mix of nuclear and coal-fired generators in 2010 to nearly all nuclear in 2019.

Coal’s share of U.S. electricity generation dropped from 45 percent in 2010 to 23 percent in 2019, the reports says. Stricter air emission standards and decreased cost competitiveness relative to other generators are given as the key reasons for coal’s decade of decline.

Georgia Power resequencing Vogtle-3 and -4 planned activities

From left: Vogtle-3 and -4. Photo: Georgia Power

Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power, primary owner of the Vogtle nuclear power plant, announced on June 23 that it is resequencing certain planned activities at Vogtle-3 and -4, the two Westinghouse AP1000 units under construction at the site near Waynesboro, Ga.

Southern gives nod to NRC on violation at Vogtle

Southern Nuclear has accepted a “white” finding (one of low to moderate safety significance) and an associated violation notice from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a problem at the company’s Vogtle nuclear plant, near Waynesboro, Ga. Earlier this year, Southern had contested the severity of the finding, arguing to no avail that the finding be more appropriately characterized as “green” (very low safety significance).

First test cycle successfully completed at Hatch plant

The lead test rods for the world’s first installed accident tolerant fuel (ATF) have completed a full cycle at Unit 1 of the Hatch nuclear power plant in Baxley, Ga. Southern Nuclear Operating Company operates the two-unit plant.

During a planned spring 2020 maintenance and refueling outage at Unit 1, operators transferred a sampling of the lead test rods from the reactor to the spent fuel pool. An initial inspection of the fuel in comparison to standard zirconium rods has been completed.