On 14 October Georgia Power announced that fuel loading into the Westinghouse AP1000 Unit 3 reactor core had begun at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, Georgia. The nuclear fuel was manufactured at Westinghouse’s Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility in South Carolina.
The fuel loading process is said to mark a historic and pivotal milestone toward startup, testing and commercial operation of what will be the first new nuclear units to be built in the USA in more than three decades.
“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,” said Chris Womack, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power. “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.”
The start of Unit 3 fuel load came after project partner Southern Nuclear received a historic 103(g) finding from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in August which signified that the new unit had been constructed and will be operated in conformance with the Combined License and NRC regulations.
During fuel load, nuclear technicians and operators from Westinghouse and Southern Nuclear are scheduled to transfer 157 fuel assemblies one-by-one from the Unit 3 spent fuel pool to the Unit 3 reactor core during the coming days.
Startup testing will begin next, and is designed to 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 also bring the plant from cold shutdown to initial criticality, synchronise the unit to the electric grid and systematically raise power to 100%. Vogtle Unit 3 is projected to enter service in the first quarter of 2023.