Georgia Power has announced another milestone for the two-unit reactor expansion at the Plant Vogtle nuclear power site, as Unit 3 on April 1 successfully generated electricity for the first time.
The utility said the unit has been synchronized and connected to the power grid. The announcement comes after Georgia Power two weeks ago said hot functional testing of the Unit 4 reactor had begun.
“What an incredibly inspiring time to join Georgia Power as we celebrate this milestone that marks the first day of generating clean, reliable power at this new nuclear unit, which will serve our customers over the next 60 to 80 years,” said Kim Greene, chairman, president, and CEO of Georgia Power, in a news release. “I consider myself very fortunate to have worked onsite at Vogtle 1 and 2 early in my career as an engineer, learning so much that I have carried with me over the years while also gaining an appreciation of the value of nuclear energy as a critical, long-term investment for our state. As we approach commercial operation for Unit 3, I know that every professional who has been involved in this project or worked at Plant Vogtle is proud of the role they have played in helping build a clean energy future for Georgia.”
The two-unit expansion at Vogtle features construction of two 1,117-MW Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors. The Generation III+ pressurized water reactors are the first of their kind built in the U.S. The project in Waynesboro, Georgia, has been delayed due to numerous issues over the past decade.
Units 1 and 2 at Plant Vogtle have operated since 1987 and 1989, respectively. Georgia Power owns 45.7% of Plant Vogtle. Three other project partners—Oglethorpe Power Corp., the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG), and the City of Dalton Utilities—own the remaining 54.3%.
Connecting to the grid is another step in the ongoing startup testing for Unit 3, which is expected to enter commercial operation in May or June of this year according to the current timeline. Operators continue to raise reactor power for electricity generation, while simultaneously performing tests at various power levels. Initial criticality for Unit 3 was reached on March 6, as technicians started the nuclear reaction inside the reactor, which generates heat to produce steam. The unit will enter commercial operation after all startup testing is successfully completed, and when operators consider the unit can reliably dispatch electricity.
Unit 4 Testing
Georgia Power has said that hot functional testing of Unit 4 is part of the last series of major tests for the new reactor, ahead of initial fuel load. The testing is designed to verify the successful operation of reactor components and systems together, providing confirmation that the reactor is ready for fuel. Unit 4 is projected to enter service late this year, or at some point during the first three months of 2024.
The site team at Vogtle will begin running Unit 4 plant systems, without nuclear fuel in the reactor, and proceed through the testing process until the unit reaches normal operating pressure and temperature. Georgia Power in its news release said, “Nuclear operators will use the heat generated by the unit’s four reactor coolant pumps to raise the temperature and pressure of plant systems to normal operating levels. Once normal operating temperature and pressure levels are achieved and sustained, the unit’s main turbine will be raised to normal operating speed using steam from the plant. During these series of tests, nuclear operators will be able to exercise and validate procedures as required ahead of fuel load.”
—Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).