Georgia Power Orders First Fuel Load for Vogtle Unit 4

Georgia Power on March 5 announced it has ordered the first nuclear fuel load for Vogtle Unit 4, as work continues on the first new-design reactors in the U.S. in more than 30 years. Fuel for Unit 3 of the two-unit expansion at Vogtle was ordered last summer.

The completion of the fuel order for Unit 4 is another milestone for the project at the Plant Vogtle site near Waynesboro, Georgia. The project is now approximately 84% complete, according to Georgia Power. The two AP1000 (Advanced Passive) units each have generation capacity of 1,117 MW.

Southern Co., the parent of Georgia Power, in an email to POWER on Thursday said the order consists of 157 fuel assemblies, each 14 feet tall. According to Georgia Power, “The fuel will eventually be loaded into the reactor vessels to support startup once the reactors begin 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, similar to the process used at existing Vogtle units 1 & 2.”

The utility on Thursday also said workers at Vogtle have installed 10 of the 16 shield building courses of panels that will surround the Unit 4 containment vessel. Georgia Power said, “The shield building is a unique feature of the AP1000 reactor design for Vogtle 3 & 4, providing an additional layer of safety around the containment vessel and nuclear reactor to protect the structure from any potential impacts.”

There are more than 9,000 workers currently at the Vogtle site, and more than 800 permanent jobs will be available when the units begin operating.

The Vogtle expansion project has sustained numerous delays over the past decade. The project was first approved by state regulators in 2009, and at the time the cost for the two new reactors was pegged at about $14 billion, with an original startup date of 2016. The most recent estimate of the project’s cost stands at about $28 billion. (For details on how the project’s costs rose, read “How the Vogtle Nuclear Expansion’s Costs Escalated.”)

Officials with Georgia Power and Southern Co. have in the past year pointed to November 2021 and November 2022 as expected dates for the new reactors to enter commercial operation.

You can follow the progress being made at Plant Vogtle in this online photo gallery, and on the Georgia Power YouTube channel.

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).

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