The nation’s first nuclear power plant expansion in years achieved another milestone ultimately leading to commissioning soon, the lead utility on the project announced this week.
Georgia Power reported that plant equipment for Unit 4 in the Vogtle nuclear plant is now permanently powered or energized. This energization allows for all subsequent testing on the unit expected to be commercial operational by late 2022 or early 2023.
Work on companion Unit 3 of the $27 billion construction project has progressed to reach commissioning by early 2022, according to reports. Georgia Power revealed earlier this week that start date could be delayed.
These will be the first new nuclear reactors commissioned in the U.S. since TVA’s Watts Bar Unit 2 in 2015, which itself was the first in about three decades.
Earlier this year, the project team started the integrated flush testing process on Unit 4, which pushes water through the permanent plant system piping that feeds into the reactor vessel and reactor coolant loops. Integrated flush represents a critical step as the process is key to helping ensure the safe startup of Unit 4 and initiated the start of extensive testing ahead for the unit’s systems.
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.
With more than 7,000 workers on site, and 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 reports.
Georgia Power had hoped to bring Unit 3 online by the end of this year. Last month, however, the utility said that delays in completing testing likely pushed the start of commercial generation to January 2022 at the earliest. Work on Unit 3 is almost 100 percent complete.
Construction on Units 3 and 4 began in 2013 and have proceeded despite cost overruns, the bankruptcy of contractor Westinghouse (later replaced by EPC firm Bechtel) and the workforce delays brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
The two units will be powered by AP1000 advanced pressurized water reactors.
Despite numerous retirements and abandonment of planned construction projects, nuclear energy accounts for 20 percent of the U.S. electricity mix and more than half of its carbon-free power.