New Projects, Nuclear, O&M

Georgia Power’s Vogtle nuclear expansion reaches construction milestones

Vogtle nuclear project leader Georgia Power announced several milestones this month on the $25 billion expansion project to add Units 3 and 4.

The middle containment vessel ring was added for Unit 4 at the site in Waynesboro, Georgia. Weighing 2.4 million pounds and 51 feet tall, the middle ring is the second of three containment vessel rings to be set for the generation unit.

The final containment vessel ring for Unit 4 should be placed later this year. Click here to see a time lapse of the middle ring placement.

Crews also completed more than 930 cubic yards of concrete inside the Unit 3 shield building. That structure is now more than 80 percent complete for the protective barrier which surrounds the Unit 3 containment vessel.

Workers have also successfully set the fourth and final core make-up tank for the Vogtle 3 & 4 project. Placed inside the Unit 4 containment vessel, the 330,000-pound, stainless-steel tank is part of the safety core cooling system to keep the reactor vessel cool using gravity and natural water circulation.

In addition, the final section of the steel floor that sits atop the in-containment refueling water storage tank (IRWST) has been set inside the Unit 4 containment vessel. The IRWST contains more than 500,000 gallons of borated water and provides heat removal from the reactor without operator action.

The Vogtle workforce also reached an all-time high with the addition of 400 craft workers, mainly pipefitters and electricians, joining the project this summer. It brings the total workforce on the site to about 8,000 people.

More than 800 workers will stay with Vogtle expansion once the project is completed sometime in the next decade. Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power owns nearly half of the project and works with partners including Oglethorpe Power, Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Dalton Utilities.

Vogtle units 1 and 2, both about 1,150 MW in generating capacity, have been operational since the 1980s and were completed for about a third of the new costs. Units 3 and 4 expansions, totaling close to 2,250 MW in potential capacity from their AP1000 reactors, are the first new nuclear projects to be approved and nearing completion in the 21st century.

Cost overruns in the billions, construction delays and reactor contractor Westinghouse’s bankruptcy put the Vogtle expansion in jeopardy, but the owners last year vowed to continue toward completion.

Both Presidents Obama and Trump have approved loan guarantees for the effort. Nuclear power generates close to 20 percent of the electricity mix in the U.S.