New Projects, Nuclear, Reactors

Last containment vessel ring placed around Vogtle nuclear expansion site

Georgia Power announced that the third and final containment vessel ring has been placed at Unit 4 of the Vogtle nuclear expansion project.

The event marks the sixth and last containment vessel ring for the $25 billion Vogtle 3 and 4  project in Waynesboro, Georgia. Thirty-eight feet high and 130 feet in diameter, the ring is a key part of the steel containment vessel that houses critical plant components, including the reactor vessel.

Crews continue making progress on the expensive, oft-delayed project, the first new U.S. nuclear expansion in decades. The final reinforced concrete portion of the Vogtle Unit 4 shield building was placed earlier this fall.

Also, the upper inner casing for the Unit 3 high-pressure turbine has been placed, signifying the completion of the center-line alignment, which will mean minimal vibration and less stress on the rotors during operations, resulting in more efficient power generation.

The project workforce remains at an all-time high with approximately 8,000 workers on site. With more than 800 permanent jobs available once the units begin operating, Vogtle 3 & 4 is currently the largest jobs-producing construction project in the state of Georgia, according to the utility.

The Vogtle Units 3 and 4 addition has run into multiple snags along the way, including cost overruns and environmental opposition. Some owners of the only U.S. nuclear reactor construction project ongoing actually considered abandoning it last year, but moved ahead with financing and encouragement from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Georgia Power leads the project ownership, which also includes Oglethorpe Power, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Dalton Utilities. The DOE has given close to $12 billion in loan guarantees for the project.

Utility officials hope to complete the Vogtle expansion and have it commercially operational sometime in the first half of the 2020s, according to reports.

Nuclear power, which does not produce carbon emissions, currently accounts for 19 percent of the U.S. electricity generation fuel mix.

(Rod Walton is content director for Power Engineering and POWERGEN International. He can be reached at 918-831-9177 and [email protected]).