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First New U.S. Nuclear Reactor in Decades Now Operational

One of the first two new nuclear reactors to be built in the U.S. in more than 30 years began commercial operation this week, according to POWER Magazine (subscription).

What’s going on: On Monday, Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power successfully brought Plant Vogtle Unit 3 into service. The reactor is now serving customers.

  • A second reactor, Unit 4—which received critical Nuclear Regulatory Commission acceptance criteria last week—is expected to come online later this year or early next year.
  • “With Unit 3 completed, and Unit 4 in the final stages of construction and testing, this project shows just how new nuclear can and will play a critical role in achieving a clean energy future for the United States,” Southern Company President and CEO Chris Womack said in a statement.

The background: The expansion of Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro, Georgia, has been in the works for more than a decade.

  • The plant already had two functioning, 1980s-era reactors—units 1 and 2—when construction began on Unit 3 in conjunction with several local Georgia utilities in 2010, according to Power Engineering (subscription).
  • When all four reactors are online, the plant will be the largest nuclear power station in the U.S.

Why it’s important: Nuclear energy is safe, reliable, affordable and zero-emission. Once both new units are operational, they will produce enough electricity to power more than 1 million homes and businesses, according to Southern Company.

The NAM says: “The entrance into service of the first new-build nuclear reactor in more than three decades is welcome news,” said NAM Vice President of Domestic Economic Policy Brandon Farris. “Nuclear power is a crucial part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy that the U.S. must continue to embrace if we are going to meet both our energy security needs and our climate goals.”

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