Georgia Power declared on Monday that Plant Vogtle Unit 3 has entered commercial operation and is now serving customers. Advocates say the new unit represents a long-term investment in the state’s clean energy future and will provide reliable, emissions-free energy to customers for decades to come.
Plant Vogtle Unit 3 is the first newly-constructed nuclear unit in the U.S. in more than 30 years and can power an estimated 500,000 homes and businesses, according to a news release.
Nuclear energy currently provides about 25% of Georgia Power’s overall energy mix, including the existing units at Plant Vogtle and Georgia’s other nuclear facility at Plant Hatch in Baxley.
The final stages of construction and testing continue at Vogtle Unit 4, with the unit projected to be placed in service during the late fourth quarter 2023 or the first quarter of 2024, according to a news release. The unit completed hot functional testing in May.
The Vogtle site has also received nuclear fuel for Unit 4, with a total of 157 fuel assemblies necessary for the safe and reliable startup of the unit.
“The Plant Vogtle 3 & 4 nuclear expansion is another incredible example of how Georgia Power is building a reliable and resilient energy future for our state,” said Kim Greene, president and CEO of Georgia Power, in a news release. “It is important that we make these kinds of long-term investments and see them through so we can continue providing clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy to our 2.7 million customers. Today’s achievement is a testament to our commitment to doing just that, and it marks the first day of the next 60 to 80 years that Vogtle Unit 3 will serve our customers with clean, reliable energy.”
In Georgia, almost every electric customer will pay for Vogtle. Georgia Power currently owns 45.7% of the reactors. Smaller shares are owned by Oglethorpe Power Corp., which provides electricity to member-owned cooperatives, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and the city of Dalton. Some Florida and Alabama utilities have also contracted to buy Vogtle's power.
The expansion project to add Units 3 and 4 was first authorized in 2009 and has been hit with multiple delays and cost overruns since. The initial plan was to bring Unit 3 online in 2016 and Unit 4 the year after. Unit 3 began producing electricity in April. During that time U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan projected that Unit 4 would be online in December. The project has cost more than double the projected $14 billion.
In May the U.S. Department of Energy reported details of the project citing a few hiccups: Work began with incomplete designs and managers repeatedly failed to realistically schedule tasks. Experienced workers were in short supply and defective work often had to be redone. Workers quit for other jobs and the COVID-19 pandemic led to high absenteeism.
This reporting content is supported by a partnership with several funders and Journalism Funding Funding Partners.
Erica Van Buren is the climate change reporter for The Augusta Chronicle, part of the USA TODAY Network. Connect with her at EVanBuren@gannett.com or on Twitter: @EricaVanBuren32.
This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: Georgia Power announced Monday that Plant Vogtle's Unit 3 is running