The Integrated Head Package (IHP) for Vogtle Unit 3 has been set into place atop the reactor vessel at Georgia Power’s nuclear expansion project near Waynesboro, Georgia, marking another significant milestone in the construction of the nation’s first new nuclear units in more than 30 years.
Standing 48 feet tall, weighing 475,000 pounds and containing more than three miles of electrical cables, the IHP is an integral component that will eventually be used by highly-trained nuclear operators to monitor and control the nuclear reaction that will occur inside the Unit 3 reactor vessel. Currently, these operators are monitoring and controlling the technology and equipment essential for testing the unit's systems and safely starting the plant.
This milestone brings the unit another step closer to loading nuclear fuel inside the reactor.
In addition, 12 of the 16 shield building courses of panels that surround the Unit 4 containment vessel have been placed. The shield building is a unique feature of the AP1000 reactor design for Vogtle 3 & 4, providing an additional layer of safety around the containment vessel and nuclear reactor to protect the structure from any potential impacts.
The placement of the IHP follows the completion of Open Vessel Testing for Unit 3 that successfully demonstrated how water flows from the key safety systems into the reactor vessel ensuring the paths are not blocked or constricted. It also prepares Unit 3 for cold hydro testing and hot functional testing - both critical tests required ahead of initial fuel load. The milestone confirmed that the pumps, motors, valves, pipes and other components of the systems function as designed.
Additional milestones achieved over the last few months include:
- Placement of the polar crane and containment vessel top for Unit 4 – This signifies that all major lifts inside the containment vessels for both units are now complete.
- Operation of the Unit 3 main control room - Operators begin monitoring and controlling the technology and equipment essential for testing the unit's systems and safely starting the plant.
- Placement of the Unit 3 shield building roof - The two-million-pound roof covers the top of the shield building, which provides an additional layer of safety around the containment vessel and nuclear reactor to protect the structure from any potential impacts.
- Final concrete placement inside the Unit 3 containment vessel - Completing this milestone is an important step that allows for the installation of machinery that will be used to load fuel into the unit.
Historic milestones accomplished over the past year include:
- Ordering the first nuclear fuel loads for both units 3 & 4. Consisting of 157 fuel assemblies with each measuring 14 feet tall, the fuel will eventually be loaded into the reactor vessels to support startup once the reactors begin operating.
- Placing the containment vessel top heads for both units, marking that the project’s final major lifts inside the containment vessels are complete. The containment vessel is a high-integrity steel structure that houses critical plant components.
- Completing the first emergency preparedness drill for the new units, which includes a comprehensive review of the site's plans to ensure the protection of the public. The emergency preparedness plan specifies the response actions if the site were ever to experience an incident.
- Finalizing Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantees for the Vogtle 3 & 4 project. Through the company’s $5.13 billion loan guarantee capacity with the DOE, Georgia Power customers are expected to save approximately $550 million in financing costs overall.
- Completing the multi-year training necessary for the nuclear operators required for the new units, which culminated with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license exam. From the main control room, operators will monitor and control the technology and equipment essential for testing the unit's systems and safely starting the plant.
With more than 7,000 workers on site, and more than 800 permanent jobs available once the units begin operating, Vogtle 3 & 4 is currently the largest jobs-producing construction project in the state of Georgia.
Follow the progress being made at the site with the Plant Vogtle 3 & 4 Online Photo Gallery and Georgia Power YouTube channel.