The first nuclear fuel shipment has arrived to supply Unit 3 at the newly expanded Vogtle power plant in Georgia.
Georgia Power reported receiving the fuel designed for the AP1000 reactor. The utility is leading a partnership forging ahead with construction of the $25 billion expansion at Vogtle.
The fuel shipment is a milestone in the project building Units 3 and 4, which are planned to go into operation in late 2021 and 2022, respectively.
“Since the start, the Vogtle expansion project has been an investment in our energy future. Today, as we receive our first nuclear fuel shipment, we remain committed to realizing the benefits this project will provide not only to our customers, but also our state and our country,” said Paul Bowers, chairman and CEO of Georgia Power. “Achieving this historic milestone brings us closer to fuel load expected in April 2021, and, once online, these new nuclear units will provide clean, carbon-free energy for the next 60 to 80 years.”
In order to receive nuclear fuel, construction of specific areas of Unit 3 had to be completed and inspected, ensuring critical infrastructure, such as the fuel vault and spent fuel pool, meet construction quality and design requirements. With site construction turning over the fuel handling area of Vogtle Unit 3 to operations, the Vogtle 3 & 4 site implemented specific and comprehensive policies, procedures and security measures to safely receive, handle and store the nuclear fuel.
Hot functional testing is a next goal before Vogtle Unit 3 can go to fuel loading stage and ultimately in-service operation. Carbon-free nuclear power is a centerpiece of parent Southern Co.’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
Once operating, the two new units at Plant Vogtle will be able to power more than 500,000 homes and businesses. A diverse fuel mix, including nuclear, is also essential to maintaining a reliable and affordable energy infrastructure that attracts new investment, supports economic growth and creates jobs.
Unit 3 construction is now approximately 96 percent complete.
One nuclear fuel pellet, roughly the size of a pencil eraser, provides as much energy as one ton of coal or nearly 150 gallons of oil. The nuclear fuel pellets are enclosed in nuclear fuel rods, which are then part of nuclear fuel assemblies.
Consisting of 157 fuel assemblies with each measuring 14 feet tall, the fuel will be loaded into the reactor vessel to support startup once the reactor begins operating. After the initial fueling, approximately one third of the total fuel assemblies will be replaced during each refueling outage after the units begin operating, much like the process used at existing Vogtle Units 1 & 2.
Despite the cost challenges which almost derailed the project in earlier years and the COVID-19 pandemic this year, Georgia Power and its partners, including EPC contractor Bechtel, have achieved a number of construction milestones in 2020. These include completion of cold hydro testing, operators licenses, closed vessel testing, structural integrity and leak rate testing and placement of the final module for Unit 3.
Georgia Power’s ownership partners include Oglethorpe Power, Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Dalton Power.