First Nuclear Reactor In Decades Fires Up In US

Governments and utilities are considering nuclear power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and battle climate change.

The first new American nuclear reactor to be constructed from the ground up in decades has begun commercial operation at a power facility in Georgia.

Unit 3 of Plant Vogtle, situated southeast of Augusta, has finished testing and producing stable electricity to the power grid, Georgia Electricity Co. stated on Monday. It can power up to 500,000 homes and businesses at a total capacity of 1,100 megawatts. The power is being sent to Georgia, Florida, and Alabama utilities.

Two completed reactors at the site have been generating power for many years, and now a fourth reactor is nearing completion. The loading of radioactive fuel into Unit 4 was approved on Friday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and it is scheduled to occur before the end of September. By March, it is hoped that Unit 4 will be ready for regular business.

According to Southern Co. CEO Chris Womack, this project proves the significant contribution that new nuclear energy can and will make toward a clean energy future for the United States. The thousands of employees who have contributed to this site’s future are reflected in the success of our Southern Company teams in bringing this unit into operation safely.

The cost of Vogtle will be passed on to Georgia’s electric users. To put it another way, 45.7% of the reactors are owned by Georgia Power. Oglethorpe Power Corp., which has a minority stake and sells power to cooperatives controlled by its members, Georgia’s Municipal Electric Authority and Dalton, are all customers. 

Power generated by Oglethorpe and MEAG will be sold to municipal utilities and cooperatives throughout Georgia, Jacksonville, Florida, and even the Alabama and Florida panhandles.

Georgia Power’s 2.7 million consumers have covered part of the financing cost. A monthly increase of $3.78 has been authorized by elected public service commissioners for residential customers once the third unit begins producing electricity. Two months after residential customers saw a $16-per-month hike to compensate for the rising fuel prices, the rate increase might come in August.

The cost of finishing Vogtle, including the construction of the fourth reactor, will be allocated later by the Commission.