Georgia Power announced tonight that fuel load into the Vogtle Unit 3 reactor core has begun at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, Ga. The fuel load process marks a historic and pivotal milestone toward startup and commercial operation of the first new nuclear units to be built in the U.S. in more than three decades.
"The Vogtle 3 & 4 nuclear units represent a critical, long-term investment in our state's energy future, and the milestone of loading fuel for Unit 3 demonstrates the steady and evident progress at the nuclear expansion site," said Chris Womack, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power. "We're making history here in Georgia and the U.S. as we approach bringing online the first new nuclear unit to be built in the country in over 30 years. These units are important to building the future of energy and will serve as clean, emission-free sources of energy for Georgians for the next 60 to 80 years."
The start of Unit 3 fuel load comes after Southern Nuclear received a historic 103(g) finding from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in August which signified that the new unit has been constructed and will be operated in conformance with the Combined License and NRC regulations.
During fuel load, nuclear technicians and operators from Westinghouse and Southern Nuclear are scheduled to safely transfer 157 fuel assemblies one-by-one from the Unit 3 spent fuel pool to the Unit 3 reactor core in the coming days.
Startup testing will begin next and is designed to demonstrate the integrated operation of the primary coolant system and steam supply system at design temperature and pressure with fuel inside the reactor. Operators will also bring the plant from cold shutdown to initial criticality, synchronize the unit to the electric grid and systematically raise power to 100%. Vogtle Unit 3 is projected to enter service in the first quarter of 2023.
Southern Nuclear will operate the new unit on behalf of the co-owners: Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities.
The new Vogtle units are an essential part of Georgia Power's commitment to delivering clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy to its 2.7 million customers. Once operating, the two new units, which will be clean energy sources that produce zero air pollution, are expected to power more than 500,000 homes and businesses.
Certain information contained in this release is forward-looking information based on current expectations and plans that involve risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking information includes, among other things, statements concerning the projected in-service date for Plant Vogtle Unit 3 and 4. Georgia Power cautions that there are certain factors that can cause actual results to differ materially from the forward-looking information that has been provided. The reader is cautioned not to put undue reliance on this forward-looking information, which is not a guarantee of future performance and is subject to a number of uncertainties and other factors, many of which are outside the control of Georgia Power; accordingly, there can be no assurance that such suggested results will be realized. The following factors, in addition to those discussed in Georgia Power's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2021, and subsequent securities filings, could cause actual results to differ materially from management expectations as suggested by such forward-looking information: the potential effects of the continued COVID-19 pandemic; the ability to control costs and avoid cost and schedule overruns during the development, construction, and operation of facilities or other projects, including Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4, which includes components based on new technology that only within the last few years began initial operation in the global nuclear industry at this scale, due to current and/or future challenges which include, but are not limited to, changes in labor costs, availability and productivity, challenges with management of contractors or vendors, subcontractor performance, adverse weather conditions, shortages, delays, increased costs, or inconsistent quality of equipment, materials, and labor, contractor or supplier delay, delays due to judicial or regulatory action, nonperformance under construction, operating, or other agreements, operational readiness, including specialized operator training and required site safety programs, engineering or design problems or any remediation related thereto, design and other licensing-based compliance matters, including inspections and the timely submittal by Southern Nuclear of the Inspections, Tests, Analyses, and Acceptance Criteria documentation for Plant Vogtle Unit 4 and the related investigations, reviews and approvals by the NRC necessary to support NRC authorization to load fuel for Plant Vogtle Unit 4, challenges with start-up activities, including major equipment failure, or system integration, and/or operational performance, and challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic; the ability to overcome or mitigate the current challenges at Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4 that could further impact the cost and schedule for the project; legal proceedings and regulatory approvals and actions related to construction projects, such as Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4, including Public Service Commission approvals and NRC actions; under certain specified circumstances, a decision by holders of more than 10% of the ownership interests of Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4 not to proceed with construction and the ability of certain other Vogtle owners to tender a portion of their ownership interests to Georgia Power following certain construction cost increases, including the purported exercise by Oglethorpe Power Corporation and the City of Dalton of their tender options and related litigation; the ability to construct facilities in accordance with the requirements of permits and licenses (including satisfaction of NRC requirements), to satisfy any environmental performance standards and the requirements of tax credits and other incentives, and to integrate facilities into the Southern Company system upon completion of construction; the inherent risks involved in operating and constructing nuclear generating facilities; the ability of counterparties of Georgia Power to make payments as and when due and to perform as required; the direct or indirect effect on Georgia Power's business resulting from cyber intrusion or physical attack and the threat of physical attacks; catastrophic events such as fires, earthquakes, explosions, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and other storms, droughts, pandemic health events, political unrest, wars or other similar occurrences; and the direct or indirect effects on Georgia Power's business resulting from incidents affecting the U.S. electric grid or operation of generating or storage resources. Georgia Power expressly disclaims any obligation to update any forward–looking information.