First reactor to come online in US since Watts Bar-2 in 2016 is sending power to grid
Unit 3 at the Vogtle nuclear power station in Georgia has begun commercial operation, becoming the first new US reactor to begin operation in the country since 2016.
Georgia Power announced on Monday (31 July) that the 1,117-MW AP1000 Generation III+ pressurised water reactor unit had completed testing and is now sending power to the grid reliably.
At its full output, Vogtle-3 can power 500,000 homes and businesses. Utilities in Georgia, Florida and Alabama are receiving the electricity it produced.
Georgia Power said the new unit represents a long-term investment in the state’s clean energy future and will provide reliable, emissions-free energy to customers for decades to come.
Plant supplier Westinghouse said: “This historic achievement marks the beginning of a new era for clean, cost-effective nuclear-powered electricity in America”.
Westinghouse said the AP1000 reactors at Vogtle are the first new nuclear build projects in the US in more than 30 years.
A fourth reactor is also nearing completion at the Vogtle site, where two earlier reactors have been generating electricity for decades.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said last week that fuel could be loaded into Unit 4, a step expected to take place before the end of September. Unit 4 is scheduled to enter commercial operation by March 2024.
Construction of Vogtle-3 began in March 2013 and of Vogtle-4 in November 2013. They are the first units of their kind being built in the US.
The in-service date for Vogtle-3 when the project was approved in 2012 was 2016, but the project has seen a number of delays and cost overruns.
The $14bn (€12.6bn) original cost of Vogtle-3 and -4 has risen to more than $30bn. The cost for Georgia Power, with a 45% share of the project, will be about $15bn.
How the company’s costs are shared with its customers will be decided by the utilities’ regulator, the Georgia Public Service Commission, once Unit 4 is operating: the law allows only costs deemed “prudent” to be passed on to ratepayers.
Background: US Nuclear In Brief
Electricity generation from commercial nuclear power plants in the US began in 1958.
The US now has 93 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