Plant Operation

Vogtle-4 / AP1000 Goes Commercial, Bringing Number Of Reactors In US Fleet To 94

By David Dalton
30 April 2024

Industry hails major milestone, but project was plagued by cost overruns and delays

AP1000 Goes Commercial, Bringing Number Of Reactors In US Fleet To 94
The Vogtle-3 and -4 nuclear power plants are both now in full commercial operation. Courtesy Georgia Power.

The Vogtle-4 nuclear power plant in the US state of Georgia has begun commercial operation with co-owner Georgia Power saying that with all four units now in operation, Vogtle is the largest generator of clean energy in the US.

Georgia Power said the new unit, which can produce enough electricity to power an estimated 500,000 homes and businesses, will provide reliable, emissions-free energy to customers for at least 60 to 80 years.

An identical Westinghouse-supplied AP1000 plant, Vogtle-3, entered commercial operation on 31 July 2023. There are also two older Westinghouse units at the site that began commercial operation in 1987 and 1989.

According to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) data the Vogtle facility’s combined net capacity from all four units is 4,536 MW.

Vogtle-4 brings the number of commercial nuclear power plants operating in the US to 94. In 2022 – before the operation of Vogtle-3 and -4 – the nuclear fleet provided just over 18% of the country’s electricity production, according to the IAEA.

The Vogtle two-unit expansion project near Waynesboro, Georgia has been hailed as a major milestone for the US nuclear power industry as they are the nation’s first large-scale nuclear reactors in decades.

The project to build the two new plants has seen cost overruns and delays.

When Georgia approved the Vogtle expansion in 2009, the two reactors were expected to cost about $14bn (€13.09bn) and enter service in 2016 and 2017. However, along with the delays, the costs have ballooned to $30bn.

Construction of Vogtle-3 began in March 2013 and of Vogtle-4 in November 2013.

In 2017, mounting delays and losses at Vogtle and at the now-abandoned Summer nuclear project in South Carolina, led Westinghouse, then a unit of Japan’s Toshiba, to file for bankruptcy.

In 2018 all four owners of the Vogtle project voted to continue construction of the two new plants.

Georgia Power owns 45.7% of Vogtle, with power companies Oglethorpe owning 30%, Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG) Power 22.7% and Dalton Utilities 1.6%.

Background: US Nuclear In Brief

Electricity generation from commercial nuclear power plants in the US began in 1958.

The US now has 94 operating commercial nuclear reactors at 55 sites in 28 states. They generate about 18% of the country’s electricity. One unit, Vogtle-4, remains under construction.

The average age of these nuclear reactors is about 40 years old. The oldest operating reactor, Nine Mile Point-1 in New York, began commercial operation in December 1969.

The newest reactor to enter service, Watts Bar-2, came online in 2016 – the first reactor to come online since 1996 when Watts Bar-1 came online.

Construction of Watts Bar-2 began in 1972 and was suspended in 1985 before resuming in 2007. It was 60% complete when construction was halted.

According to the NRC as of November 2021, there were 23 shut down commercial nuclear power reactors at 19 sites in various stages of decommissioning.

With operation of Vogtle-4, the US now has 94 operating commercial nuclear reactors at 55 sites in 28 states. Courtesy Georgia Power.

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