Plant Vogtle’s Unit 3 has started splitting atoms, a key milestone

The new Unit 3 reactor at Plant Vogtle has started splitting atoms, a key step toward reaching commercial operation.
Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 11:29 AM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WAYNESBORO, Ga. - The new Unit 3 reactor at Plant Vogtle has started splitting atoms, a key step toward reaching commercial operation at the first new U.S. nuclear reactors built in decades.

Georgia Power said plant operators reached self-sustaining fission Monday. This means atoms are being split and heat is being created to produce steam to spin turbines that generate electricity.

Unit 3 continues with startup testing on factors like the coolant, steam supply, temperature and pressure, Georgia Power said.

Power will be gradually raised before the generator is linked to the electric grid, with Unit 3 projected to go into full service in May or June.

Units 1 and 2 at Vogtle have been operating for decades, and the new Units 3 and 4 have been under construction in recent years. Progress on Unit 3 is further along than Unit 4, so Unit 4 will be going through all these steps later ahead of projected commercial operation between November 2023 and March 2024.

Once Units 3 and 4 are online, the nuclear power plant will be “the largest of its kind in the U.S.,” said Chris Womack, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power.

Womack says the new units will provide “clean and emission-free energy for the next 60 to 80 years.”

The cost of the third and fourth reactors was originally supposed to be $14 billion. The reactors are now supposed to cost more than $30 billion. That doesn’t include $3.68 billion that original contractor Westinghouse paid to the owners after going bankrupt, which brings total spending to more than $34 billion.

“We remain focused on safely bringing this unit online, fully addressing any issues and getting it right at every level,” Womack said.

Georgia Power owns a minority of the two new reactors. The remaining shares are owned by Oglethorpe Power Corp., the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and the city of Dalton. Oglethorpe and MEAG would sell power to cooperatives and municipal utilities across Georgia, as well in Florida and parts of Alabama.

Georgia Power’s 2.7 million customers are already paying part of the financing cost, and state regulators have approved a monthly rate increase of $3.78 a month as soon as the third unit begins generating power. The elected Georgia Public Service Commission will decide later who pays for the remainder of the costs.