New Nuclear on the Block in Georgia

Cody Good
Courtesy of Tenor.com

The US nuclear industry has cause for celebration and maybe a new job for Homer, with a brand-new nuclear reactor officially coming online yesterday.

The deets: Plant Vogtle’s Unit 3 is the first reactor to be built in the US in—wait for it—more than 30 years with a twin reactor due in the coming months. 

  • The intention was to have Unit 3 in service in 2016, but as with almost every major infrastructure project in North America nowadays… there were delays.

Several years, in fact, with a final price tag of more than $30 billion—roughly double the original $14 billion estimate. 

  • The cost overruns were so high that Westinghouse, the project’s engineering contractor, was forced into bankruptcy. As quoted by the Financial Times: “It turns out nuclear construction is hard.” 

Once the new twins—Unit 3 and Unit 4—are both up and running, Vogtle will become the second largest plant by capacity in the US, after the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State. The plant will ensure more than half of Georgia’s electricity will be generated carbon free, primarily from nuclear. 

The big question: With such rampant cost overruns, how much will the price of electricity go up?

Rate increases have reached 3 percent as Unit 3 came online but final figures won’t be known until Unit 4 is online. Current estimates put the rate increases between 10-13 percent.

Big picture: Vogtle and the Georgia Public Service Commission had a rough go with their new reactor, but it was not without its benefits. Not only will they supply Georgia with emissions-free power, but the companies also gained learnings that will benefit nuclear enthusiasts with future projects.