With key tests, Plant Vogtle’s Unit 4 nearing final stretch
WAYNESBORO, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Georgia Power on Monday began the last series of major tests ahead of the so-called initial fuel load for the new Unit 4 at Plant Vogtle.
It comes just days after a major milestone at Unit 4′s twin, Unit 3.
What began Monday at Unit 4 is called hot functional testing, which is done to make sure nuclear reactor components and systems work together and to confirm the reactor is ready for fuel load.
Crews will run Unit 4 plant systems without nuclear fuel in the reactor as they advance through the testing. As part of the process, crews 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.
Vogtle Unit 4 is projected to enter service in late fourth quarter of 2023 or first quarter of 2024.
Unit 3 is ahead of Unit 4, and could go online in May or June of this year. On March 6, it began splitting atoms, creating the heat to produce steam that will generate electricity.
Units 1 and 2 at Vogtle have been operating for decades, with Units 3 and 4 under construction only in recent years. Once Units 3 and 4 are online, the nuclear power plant will be “the largest of its kind in the U.S.,” says Chris Womack, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power.
The new Vogtle units are an essential part of Georgia Power’s commitment to delivering clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy to its 2.7 million customers. Once operating, the two new units, which will be clean energy sources that produce zero air pollution, are expected to power more than 500,000 homes and businesses. Southern Nuclear will operate the new units on behalf of the co-owners: Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities.
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 March 6. 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.
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