Fuel loading under way at Vogtle 3

14 October 2022

Workers have begun transferring 157 fuel assemblies into the core of the unit, marking a pivotal milestone towards the startup and commercial operation of the USA's first new nuclear units in more than three decades.

Vogtle 3 (Image: Georgia Power)

"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," President and CEO of Georgia Power Chris Womack said, adding that the company is "making history" with the project. "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," he said.

Vogtle 3 is the first of the two AP1000 units under construction at the site in Waynesboro to reach this milestone, after the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in August issued operator Southern Nuclear with a so-called 103(g) finding confirming that it has been constructed and will be operated in conformance with its licence and NRC regulations.

The fuel loading process involves transferring the fuel assemblies one-by-one from the reactor's used fuel storage pool into its core. After the fuel has been loaded, startup testing will 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 then bring the plant from cold shutdown to initial criticality, synchronise the unit to the electric grid and systematically raise power to 100%.

Construction of Vogtle 3 began in March 2013 and unit 4 in November that year. Southern Nuclear and Georgia Power, both subsidiaries of Southern Company, took over management of the project to build the units in 2017 following Westinghouse's Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Hot functional testing to verify the successful operation of plant systems at normal operating pressure and temperature without nuclear fuel was completed at Vogtle 3 in 2021. Fuel loading had been expected to begin later that year, but the schedule has been revised several times. Unit 3 is now projected to enter commercial service in the first quarter of 2023, with an in-service target date for unit 4 by the end of that year.

Vogtle 3 and 4 are co-owned by Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities.

A video showing the fuel loading process can be seen here: https://youtu.be/sV81KRAcQZs

Researched and written by World Nuclear News