Podcast: How are the USA's historic new Vogtle nuclear units doing?

04 July 2024

Southern Nuclear's Senior Vice President at Vogtle 3 and 4, John Williams, on the achievement of completing the first new US nuclear power units in more than 30 years - and the lessons which can be shared.


Williams talks about the "tremendous pride" felt by everyone involved in completing the new units, with both Westinghouse AP1000s performing well and Vogtle 3 operating at 98% capacity since being put into service a year ago. As well as the direct jobs - 9000 workers were on site at peak construction - he says the new units are demonstrating the benefits of carbon-free energy, and the role that can be played in the future of energy in the US and further afield.

The project had many well-documented challenges to overcome - the impact of Fukushima, Westinghouse's Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2017 and the global pandemic - and Williams outlines some of the lessons learned which Southern Company - Southern Nuclear and Georgia Power's parent company - is committed to sharing with utilities in the US and other countries as they embark on their own projects.

The first lesson, he says, is the need for resilience, which has been demonstrated by the project partners Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities, and operator Southern Nuclear

Others include a "tremendous partnership" with the workforce, a constructive regulatory environment at both state and federal level and "we can't stress enough how important it is that the engineering design of a power plant is sufficiently complete to support efficient construction".

Vogtle 3 and 4, pictured in March 2024 (Image: Georgia Power)


He added: "Our last one that we always tell is that it's important that the owner and operator of the facility own the project from the beginning. There are myriad of commercial arrangements whereby these projects could get built, but whoever's going to own it and operate it is ultimately responsible for the cost for the schedule, for the regulatory compliance and we believe ownership by that owner operator is critical from the very beginning."

Williams said that over the years there have been "ebbs and flows but I think right now public opinion around nuclear energy is probably at its highest because people recognise the solution that it can play as we look to fight climate change. So we need reliable energy in a way that minimises impact to the environment. Nuclear energy is the right solution for that."

In the World Nuclear News round-up Claire Maden reports on the progress of the ADVANCE Act in the US, Kazakhstan's plans for a referendum later this year on new nuclear, and the latest uranium-mining developments in Niger.

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Episode credit:  Presenter Alex Hunt. Co-produced and mixed by Pixelkisser Production 

Researched and written by World Nuclear News