Apr 30, 2024 - News

Plant Vogtle nuclear reactor starts commercial operations

A photo during a clear day of two large nuclear reactors with steam emitting from the top

Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4. Photo: Courtesy of Georgia Power

Georgia Power's two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle are now pumping electricity to customers' lights and laptops.

Why it matters: The start of "commercial operation" at Vogtle's Unit 4 closes the door on an expansion project that ran years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

  • The units — the first reactors built from scratch in the U.S. in more than 30 years — make Vogtle the largest clean energy provider in the U.S., Georgia Power CEO Kim Greene said in a statement.

By the numbers: Vogtle will generate approximately 30 million megawatt hours of electricity each year for Georgia Power's roughly 2.7 million customers, the company said.

  • The new units can generate enough electricity to power an estimated 500,000 homes and businesses for "at least 60 to 80 years."

Zoom in: The two new reactors' total cost ballooned from an estimated $14 billion in 2009 when construction began to more than $30 billion, the AP reported last year.

  • Unit 3 entered commercial operation in 2023, six years behind schedule.

Between the lines: Unlike coal or natural gas, nuclear power generation does not emit carbon. The technology will play a key role in curbing the effects of climate change.

  • However, the mining and production of uranium that's used during the fission process to create electricity does.

Follow the money: In 2009, state lawmakers approved a controversial law allowing Georgia Power to start charging ratepayers roughly $1.6 billion in advance to foot the project's financing costs.

  • This past year, the Georgia Public Service Commission, the quasi-judicial state agency that regulates electricity prices, approved the company's request to pass on $7.6 billion in construction costs to ratepayers, the AJC reports.

State of play: Georgia's demand for electricity and need for more carbon-free energy is only expected to increase.

  • In March, Georgia Power told state regulators that an estimated 80% of future projected power demands will come from data centers, the Georgia Recorder reported.
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