Georgia Power said its Vogtle Unit 3 nuclear reactor has safely reached 100% power and is close to commercial operation.
The reactor is expected to produce nearly 1.1 gigawatts of energy, which is enough to power nearly half a million homes and businesses. Georgia Power expects the energy produced to be used in Georgia and surrounding states.
The reactor is located at the Plant Vogtle nuclear energy facility near Waynesboro, Georgia. It is part of a project that includes the first new nuclear units built in the United States in more than 30 years, Georgia Power said.
Unit 3 is currently undergoing tests for its full range of operations, the company said, including running at various power levels and operating in real conditions. Georgia Power said once it was fully operational it could run for 60 to 80 years.
The testing to 100% power level focused on the operation of the reactor, plant control systems, support systems, and integrated plant operations. The performance was monitored through various operational conditions and data was evaluated by site engineers, the company said. With full power being achieved other tests will now be necessary to meet its operating license.
The successful power test of Unit 3 comes on the heels of Unit 4 completing hot functional testing earlier this year. During that testing plant systems achieved normal operating pressure and temperature, without nuclear fuel in the reactor, to demonstrate that the systems would operate on an integrated basis, Georgia Power said.
The next step for that reactor is for all criteria to be approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission so that fuel can be loaded into the unit. That includes passing inspections, tests, and analyses.
Nuclear Power Continues to Show Potential
The expansion comes as nuclear power’s spotlight on clean energy transitions has expanded.
Recently Westinghouse unveiled plans for a small modular nuclear reactor and the Department of Energy granted millions toward nuclear projects and regulatory studies. Four Danish companies also said they would supply 1 GW of energy through 25 small modular reactors to generate energy for ammonia production in Indonesia.
Both of the new Georgia reactors are AP1000 nuclear units from Westinghouse Electric Company. The Associated Press reported that the cost of the Georgia Power nuclear reactors was originally set at around $14 billion but has ballooned to nearly $31 billion.
Units 1 and 2 have been operational since 1989, and the latter two reactors have been planned since the late 2000s but have faced numerous delays. Georgia Power expects Unit 3 to be commercially available in June 2023 once all the tests are successful. Unit 4 is set to be operational by the end of this year or early 2024.