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First New Nuclear Reactor Constructed in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operation



First New Nuclear Reactor Constructed in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operation

Monday denoted whenever a new nuclear reactor first started delivering power to the electric grid in the US in almost seven years. Nuclear energy doesn’t create the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

The unit 3 reactor at Plant Vogtle close to Waynesboro, Georgia, has begun commercial operation, essential owner Georgia Power said on Monday. This follows the March preliminary tests.

According to Georgia Power, the reactor, a Westinghouse AP1000, is producing approximately 1,110 megawatts of energy, which could power approximately 500,000 homes and businesses.

The last time a nuclear reactor began delivering energy to the power grid was in October 2016, when the Tennessee Valley Authority started commercial operation of its Watts Bar Unit 2 close to Spring City, Tenn., as per Scott Burnell, a representative for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Before that, Watts Bar 1 in May 1996 was the last time a new nuclear reactor was turned on.

Georgia Power CEO Kim Greene stated in a statement that the unit 3 power reactor at Vogtle will supply electricity to customers for the next 60 to 80 years.

The nuclear industry is celebrating the achievement.

“The commercial operation of Vogtle Unit 3 marks a significant achievement for the U.S. nuclear energy industry and a milestone in advancing global clean and reliable energy solutions,” Maria Korsnick, the CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, a nuclear industry advocacy group, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to witness the successful deployment of this Westinghouse AP1000 advanced reactor, which is helping to shape the energy landscape of the future.”

Over budget and late

Building one of these reactors is a gigantic project.

Development on Vogtle 3 and 4 started in June 2009, took significantly longer than anticipated to finish, and was considerably more costly than initially forecast, as detailed in a piece published Monday by nuclear energy researchers at Columbia University.

Both reactors were anticipated to start operating in 2016 and 2017, and their initial cost estimates were $14 billion. However, the costs have ballooned to $30 billion up to this point, and unit 4 is as yet not turned on, nuclear energy specialists Matt Bowen, Rama T. Ponangi, and Andrew Evans from Columbia said.

According to Columbia energy analysts, among other issues, construction began before design completion causing some delays. That will not be an issue with new AP1000 builds.

Regardless, the nuclear industry, which is actively attempting to reinvent itself following a decade-long slump, has been hampered by Vogtle’s construction timeline and budgetary issues.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the majority of nuclear energy in the United States came online. Sentiment around nuclear energy plunged in the US after the nuclear reactor accident at Three Mile Island in 1979. “The nuclear construction industry went into the doldrums for two decades,” the industry trade group, the World Nuclear Association says.

However, as a result of the urgency of addressing climate change and the demand for clean energy, interest in nuclear energy has significantly increased in recent years. Thermal power contributed 47% of America’s carbon-free electricity in 2022, as per the DOE, and has contributed around 20% of the country’s overall energy since the 1990s.

Unit 4 of the Vogtle Plant is expected to go into service during the late final quarter of 2023 or the first quarter of 2024, Georgia Power said on Monday. Georgia Power possesses 45.7% of the Vogtle Power Plant, the Oglethorpe Power Corporation owns 30%, and the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia possesses 22.7%. likewise, Dalton Utilities holds 1.6%.

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