New Projects, Nuclear

Vogtle operators install unique accident tolerant fuel at nuclear plant

Operators at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia have installed what was called the world’s first accident tolerant fuel assemblies.

Unit 2 at Vogtle was returned to service after a planned refueling and maintenance outage which began March 10. The new fuel assemblies contain both pellets and claddings.

 “This innovative technology is expected to enhance the plant’s already robust safety performance, as well as potentially lower plant operating costs,” said John Williams, Southern Nuclear fuel and analysis director. “The safety and health of our customers and our employees is always our top priority, and we will continue to pursue innovations that enhance safety and offer more operational flexibility.” 

With support from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Accident Tolerant Fuel program, Framatome developed the fuel assemblies with Southern Nuclear as part of Framatome’s PROtect program of research and development. 

The installation of complete test assemblies marks another significant advancement in the potential commercial deployment of accident tolerant fuel technology, with Southern Nuclear previously installing test assemblies containing fuel segments into Plant Hatch’s Unit 1 as part of a refueling outage in 2018. 

Each unit at Plant Vogtle requires new fuel every 18 months. In addition to refueling the reactor and performing regular maintenance and testing, workers made upgrades to plant systems and components. Last refueled in 2017, Unit 2 completed a 522-day breaker-to-breaker run, remaining online for more than 17 months of continuous operation.

“The work that this team safely performed during this outage will position Unit 2 for another full cycle of reliable operation,” said Vogtle Site Vice President Darin Myers.

This was the 20th refueling for Unit 2 since commercial startup in May 1989. 

Plant Vogtle Unit 1 continued to safely generate electricity while Unit 2 was offline and refueling.

Southern Nuclear operates Plant Vogtle on behalf of Georgia Power and co-owners Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities. Employees from across the Southern Nuclear fleet assisted Plant Vogtle’s staff of more than 900 in the refueling effort.

More than 800 additional workers from Westinghouse, Day and Zimmerman, and other partners were on site performing specialized tasks. This supplemental workforce provides economic stimulus to surrounding communities during the planning stages and throughout the outage.

Construction crews also are at work on new Units 3 and 4 at Vogtle. The $25 billion project is scheduled to be completed midway through the next decade.