The United States has started commercial operations on its first new nuclear reactor in nearly seven years. During operation, nuclear power reactors produce almost no greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
After having successfully completed all its tests and safety inspections, the first U.S. Gen III+ advanced nuclear Westinghouse AP1000 reactor at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle began delivering power to the electric grid on Monday. This historic achievement marks the beginning of a new era for clean, cost-effective nuclear-powered electricity in America, using the most advanced nuclear reactor technology available today on the market globally, according to Georgia Power.
The unit 3 reactor is generating approximately 1,110 megawatts of energy, which can power an estimated 500,000 homes and businesses, Georgia Power said. The power reactor at Vogtle will deliver electricity to customers for the next 60 to 80 years.
Georgia Power owns two nuclear facilities, Hatch and Vogtle, which provide about 20% of the electricity used in Georgia. The plants are managed by Southern Nuclear, a sister company owned by Southern Company, which specializes in nuclear operations. Its new Vogtle units are clean energy sources that will produce zero air pollution and further the goal of Southern Company, to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Construction on Vogtle 3 and 4 began in 2009 when it was expected that Units 3 and 4 would cost $14 billion and begin commercial operations in 2016 and 2017. But they faced delays in completion and costs than originally estimated. The recent estimates put the cost for the two units at over $30 billion, with Unit 4 still under construction.
The final stages of construction and testing continue at Vogtle Unit 4. The unit completed hot functional testing in May in record-setting time, with commercial operation expected in the fourth quarter of this year or early next year.
The last time a nuclear reactor started delivering energy to the power grid – when the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Unit 2 began commercial operation near Spring City, Tennessee, in October 2016. Before this, Watts Bar Unit 1 was the last one to be activated in May 1996.