Georgia Power officials said Unit 3 at Plant Vogtle has reached 100% power output, as the first reactor in a two-unit expansion at the site in Waynesboro, Georgia, nears commercial operation.
The utility on May 29 said Unit 3 reached its expected output of about 1,100 MW for the first time, as the reactor continues to undergo testing. Officials on Monday said the unit is expected to enter service in June after all startup testing is successfully completed, with the unit then “available for reliable dispatch.”
“Unit 3 is currently undergoing testing through the full range of plant operations, including safely running at various power levels and operating through real-life conditions just as it will over the next 60 to 80 years after the unit enters commercial operation,” said Kim Greene, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power. “As we enter the final stages of startup testing, reaching 100% power for the first time is an exciting milestone. It tells us we’re close to finishing the unit safely and bringing it online to power Georgia homes and businesses with reliable, emissions-free energy for decades to come.”
The two-unit expansion at Vogtle is the first new utility-scale nuclear power plant to be built in the U.S. in several decades. The project has endured several construction and other delays, with its final pricetag reportedly topping $35 billion, well above the original estimates of about $14 billion.
Georgia Power in a news release said, “In alignment with the testing performed throughout power ascension, testing at the 100% power level is focused on the operation of the reactor, plant control systems for the reactor and support systems, and integrated plant operations.” The utility continued, saying “Plant performance is monitored at various conditions and data is gathered and evaluated by site engineers. With the unit reaching full power for the first time, other tests must be performed at this power level before the unit is available for reliable dispatch in accordance with its combined operating license.”
The two-unit expansion at Vogtle features construction of two Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors. The Generation III+ pressurized water reactors are the first of their kind built in the U.S.
Unit 3 generated electricity for the first time in April, and was successfully synchronized and connected to the electric grid. Operators had started the nuclear reaction within the reactor in March, in what is known as initial criticality, as atoms were split and nuclear heat was produced, which enabled production of steam.
Unit 4 at Vogtle also has reached its own milestones, with the reactor receiving nuclear fuel this month. Georgia Power on Monday said a total of 157 fuel assemblies “necessary for the safe and reliable startup of Unit 4 are currently arriving by truck in shipping canisters designed to transport non-irradiated uranium fuel assemblies. Once delivered, assemblies are removed from the canisters, one-by-one, and lifted into the fuel handling area, where they are inspected and safely stored in a fuel vault prior to fuel load, which is projected to occur later this year.”
Unit 4, which completed hot functional testing on May 1, is expected to enter commercial operation either late this year, or in the first quarter of 2024.
—Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).