ATLANTA (AP) — A new reactor at a nuclear power plant in Georgia has reached full power for the first time and is expected to enter commercial operation next month.
Georgia Power Co. announced Monday that Plant Vogtle Unit 3, southeast of Augusta, has reached full production of 1,100 megawatts of electricity. That’s enough to power about 500,000 homes and businesses. Power will be sent to Georgia and other states.
Operators are conducting additional testing to prove they can operate the reactor in the manner required for regular operations, Georgia Power CEO Kim Greene said in a statement, calling the achievement an “exciting milestone.”
“This signals to us that we are on the verge of safely completing the unit and bringing it online to power Georgia homes and businesses with reliable, emission-free energy for decades to come,” he said. she declared.
The fourth reactor has completed a key testing phase and operators plan to start loading radioactive fuel between July and October, with the aim of the reactor entering commercial operation between December and March 2024.
Units 3 and 4 at the Vogtle plant are the first new reactors built from scratch in decades in the United States.
The first two reactors have been producing electricity at Vogtle for decades. A third and fourth reactors were approved for construction at Vogtle by the Georgia Public Service Commission in 2009, and the third reactor was scheduled to begin generating electricity in 2016.
The cost of the third and fourth reactors was originally expected to be $14 billion, but is now expected to cost owners $31 billion. That doesn’t include the $3.7 billion that original contractor Westinghouse paid out to owners after it went bankrupt, bringing the total outlay to nearly $35 billion.
In Georgia, almost all electric customers will pay for Vogtle. Georgia Power, the largest unit of Atlanta-based Southern Co., currently owns 45.7% of the reactors. Smaller shares are held by Oglethorpe Power Corp., which supplies electricity to member-owned co-ops, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and the City of Dalton. Oglethorpe and MEAG plan to sell power to co-ops and municipal utilities in Georgia, as well as Jacksonville, Fla., and parts of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.
Georgia Power’s 2.7 million customers are already paying part of the cost of financing, and utility commissioners-elect have approved a monthly rate increase of $3.78 per month for residential customers as soon as the third unit begins to operate. generate electricity. That could hit bills in July, a month after residential customers saw a $16-a-month increase to pay for higher fuel costs. Georgia Power also raised rates by 2.5% in January after commissioners approved a separate three-year rate plan. Increases of 4.5% will follow in 2024 and 2025 under this plan.
The commissioners will later decide who will pay for the rest of Vogtle’s costs, including the fourth reactor.