OAN’s Shawntel Smith-Hill
11:47 AM – Monday, July 31, 2023
Despite delays and uncertainty, the first of two long-awaited new reactors at a nuclear power plant in Georgia has begun operating commercially, becoming the first reactor to be built entirely from scratch in decades.
Missed deadlines raised questions about whether the ambitious goals of a new reactor could be met.
According to an update on Monday from Georgia Power Co., Unit 3 at Plant Vogtle, southeast of Augusta, the reactor has completed its testing and is now successfully being used for everyday power.
The completion of the two reactors was slated for 2016 and 2017, but a myriad of problems kept the southern state from reaching its goal. At nearly double its original cost estimation while toting a full output of 1,100 megawatts of electricity, Unit 3 is expected to be able to power around 500,000 homes and businesses.
The stumbling finish of the reactors marks a new milestone for Georgia energy. Nuclear power now makes up 25% of Georgia’s power generation.
A fourth reactor is also approaching completion, and once operational, it will reportedly work alongside two existing reactors that have been in service for decades. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced on Friday that radioactive fuel could be placed into Unit 4, with the process anticipated to be completed by the end of September.
Unit 4 is expected to begin commercial operations in March.
Those who favor the creation of the reactors argue that the large-scale nuclear plant is crucial to meet growing energy needs without increasing concerns over climate-warming emissions.
Opponents of the reactor’s construction point to previous mass reactor failures and the plant’s significant number of setbacks as reasons why new facilities like Vogtle may not be the answer to sustaining a carbon-free electricity grid in the United States.
Georgia Power CEO Kim Greene said in a statement on Monday that Unit 3’s entry into commercial operations “marks the first day of the next 60 to 80 years that Vogtle Unit 3 will serve our customers with clean, reliable energy” and that it’s “important that we make these kinds of long-term investments and see them through.”
“This hadn’t been done in this country from start to finish in some 30-plus years,” said Chris Womack, CEO of Atlanta-based Southern Co., on Monday in an interview. “So to do this, to get this done, to get this done right, is a wonderful accomplishment for our company, for the state and for the customers here in Georgia.”
The price estimation for the reactors was estimated to be $14 billion, but they have now exceeded that value, with a cost expected to be around $31 billion.
People who pay for electricity in Georgia are also expected to contribute to a portion of the cost that went into the facility’s creation, however, questions regarding who will foot the bill for the overcharge is still up in the air.
Experts have emphasized that the delays and steep construction costs have severely diminished the benefits that come from the low cost of uranium.
Georgia commissioners will reportedly be responsible for determining who pays for Vogtle’s remaining expenditures and where the corporation and its stockholders would pick up the tab for excessive costs.
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