Vogtle 3 homologated to load fuel: New Nuclear
August 04, 2022
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has cleared Southern Nuclear Operating Company to load nuclear fuel and begin operation of Vogtle’s Unit 3 in Georgia, marking Unit AP1000’s transition from oversight from construction to the process of supervising the reactor in operation.
Inside Vogtle 3’s control room (Image: Georgia Power)
Plant owner Georgia Power said the regulator’s so-called 103(g) finding for the plant – confirming that the unit was built and will be operated under the terms of its combined construction and operating license (COL) and NRC regulations – is a historic milestone of the project. The discovery paves the way for the operator to load fuel and begin the start-up sequence of the new unit.
“Today’s discovery by the NRC helps ensure that we delivered on our commitment to build Vogtle 3 and 4 with the highest safety and quality standards,” said Chris Womack, President and CEO of Georgia Power. “These new units remain a solid long-term investment for this state and, once in service, are expected to provide customers with a reliable, resilient, clean, emissions-free source of power for the next 60 to 80 years.”
Vogtle 3 is also the first unit to receive permission to start under the NRC’s COL process, which the regulator introduced in 1989. Previously, US nuclear power plants were licensed under a two-step process requiring both a building permit and an operating permit. Licence.
“This is the first time that we have permitted initial reactor start-up through our Part 52 licensing process,” said Andrea Veil, director of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. “Prior to clearance, we independently verified that Vogtle Unit 3 was properly constructed and will protect public health and safety as it transitions into operation. Our resident Vogtle inspectors will be closely monitoring the unit 3 as fuel load and start-up tests progress.”
The process of satisfying the 398 ITAACs (Inspections, Tests, Analysis and Acceptance Criteria) outlined in the COL – all independently verified by the NRC – was completed on July 29. The on-site crew is currently working on final preparations to load fuel, begin start-up testing and bring the unit online, Georgia Power said. The company has previously indicated that it is aiming for the end of October to complete the loading of fuel – which is already on site – into the reactor, in order to achieve a commissioning date of the end of the first quarter of 2023. During the period after several months, start-up tests will demonstrate the integrated operation of the primary coolant circuit and the steam supply system at design temperature and pressure with fuel inside the reactor, before the plant is brought back to the initial criticality and synchronized with the network.
Construction of Vogtle 3 began in March 2013 and that of Unit 4 in November of the same year. Southern Nuclear and Georgia Power, both subsidiaries of Southern Company, took over project management to build the units in 2017 following Westinghouse’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Unit 4 is now over 96% complete, with a target in-service date of December 2023.
The new units at the Waynesboro site – which already houses two pressurized water reactors in operation – are jointly owned by Georgia Power (45.7%), Oglethorpe Power (30%), MEAG Power (22.7%) and the Municipality of Dalton (1.6%).
Research and writing by World Nuclear News