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New Nuclear Unit in Georgia Generates Electricity for the First Time, Connects to Grid

Georgia Power on April 1 reported that the generator at Vogtle Unit 3 has generated electricity for the first time, and the unit has successfully synchronized and connected to the electric grid.

Southern Nuclear will operate the new units on behalf of the co-owners: Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power and public power utilities MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities. MEAG Power is a 22.7% co-owner of Plant Vogtle, including the new units, while Dalton Utilities is a 1.6% co-owner of the plant.

Vogtle 3 and 4 are new nuclear units under construction at a nuclear expansion project near Waynesboro, Ga. Vogtle Unit 3 is adjacent to the operating Units 1 and 2, near Waynesboro, Georgia. Unit 3 and 4 are two 1,100-megawatt Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors being constructed in Burke County, Ga.

Connecting to the electric grid is part of ongoing startup testing for Vogtle Unit 3, and operators will continue to raise reactor power for electricity generation while performing tests at various power levels.

This Unit 3 milestone follows initial criticality, reached on March 6, when operators safely started the nuclear reaction inside the reactor, generating nuclear heat to produce steam. Once all startup testing is successfully completed and the unit is available for reliable dispatch, the unit will enter commercial operation.

Meanwhile, at Vogtle Unit 4, nuclear operators began hot functional testing last month. Both achievements represent significant steps toward operations.

At Unit 4, hot functional testing, which began last month, marks the last series of major tests underway for the new nuclear unit ahead of initial fuel load.

The testing is being conducted to verify the successful operation of reactor components and systems together and confirm the reactor is ready for fuel load. As part of the testing, the site team will begin running Unit 4 plant systems, without nuclear fuel in the reactor, and advance through the testing process towards reaching normal operating pressure and temperature. 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.

The in-service date for Unit 3 is projected during May or June 2023. Vogtle Unit 4 is projected to enter service in late fourth quarter 2023 or first quarter 2024.