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First new US nuclear power plant in three decades now producing electricity

The Vogtle 3 nuclear plant with, in the background, the Vogtle 4 unit.

The Vogtle 3 nuclear plant with, in the background, the Vogtle 4 unit.

Photo by Georgia Power

1st August 2023

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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American electricity utility Georgia Power on Monday announced that the first new nuclear power plant (NPP) built in the US in 30 years, Vogtle 3, had started commercial operation and is supplying electricity to consumers in the US State of Georgia. Vogtle 3 is a Westinghouse AP1000 pressurised water reactor. (Georgia Power is a subsidiary of the Southern Company, a group which holds a number of electricity and gas utilities across the southern US.)

Vogtle 3 will have an operational life that will extend late into, and perhaps even to the end of, this century. At any given time, it will be able to power approximately 500 000 homes and businesses.

Just a few days earlier, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) had issued Georgia Power with what is known, in the US regulatory system, as a “103(g) finding”. This stated that the Vogtle 4 NPP (Vogtle 3’s sister unit) had been built and would be operated in compliance with its Combined Licence and NRC regulations. This means that nuclear fuel can now be loaded into Vogtle 4 and the reactor’s startup sequence can commence. (The company refers to its Vogtle NPP complex as ‘Plant Vogtle’.)

“The Plant Vogtle 3 & 4 nuclear expansion is another incredible example of how Georgia Power is building a reliable and resilient energy future for our State,” affirmed company chairperson, president and CEO Kim Greene. “It is important that we make these kinds of long-term investments and see them through so we can continue providing clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy to our 2.7-million customers. [Monday’s] achievement is a testament to our commitment to doing just that, and it marks the first day of the next 60 to 80 years that Vogtle Unit 3 will serve our customers with clean, reliable energy.”

Once Vogtle 4 is also producing commercially, the Vogtle complex will be the biggest generator of clean energy in the entire US. Nuclear, the company points out, is the only zero-emissions baseload energy source currently available. At the moment, nuclear accounts for some 25% of its total energy mix, produced by its two NPP complexes, Plant Vogtle and Plant Hatch.

“[Monday] is a historic day for the State of Georgia, Southern Company, and the entire energy sector, as we continue transforming the way we power the lives of millions of Americans,” highlighted Southern Company president and CEO Chris Womack. “With Unit 3 completed, and Unit 4 in the final stages of construction and testing, this project shows just how new nuclear can and will play a critical role in achieving a clean energy future for the United States. Bringing this unit safely into service is a credit to the hard work and dedication of our teams at Southern Company and the thousands of additional workers who have helped build that future at this site, as well as all of the partners who have helped make this day a reality.”

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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