A second new nuclear reactor has been completed in Georgia for clients including Alabama

The Georgia Power Company’s number four unit at Plant Vogtle has recently seen the second of two new nuclear reactors enter commercial operation. Despite facing significant delays and increased costs compared to initial projections, the reactor now successfully generates carbon-free electricity by harnessing the power of atom splitting. In addition to the Georgia Power Company, utilities in parts of Alabama, Jacksonville, Florida, and the Florida Panhandle have also signed contracts to purchase power from Vogtle.

These two nuclear reactors are the first to be constructed in the United States in several decades.

The projected cost of the new Vogtle reactors is estimated to be approximately $31 billion for Georgia Power and three other owners, as calculated by The Associated Press. Additionally, the original contractor, Westinghouse, paid Vogtle owners $3.7 billion to terminate the construction, bringing the total cost to nearly $35 billion.

Electric customers in Georgia have already paid billions of dollars for what could potentially be the most expensive power plant in history. Initially, the reactors were expected to cost $14 billion and be finished by 2017.

Utilities and their political supporters celebrated the completion of the plant on Monday. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp expressed his gratitude for this significant accomplishment by Georgia Power and its partners. Chris Womack, CEO of Southern Co. based in Atlanta and the owner of Georgia Power, emphasized that Vogtle will enhance the reliability and resilience of the state’s electrical grid. Furthermore, it will contribute to the utility’s objective of achieving zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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In a statement, Womack expressed his belief that the new Vogtle units will not only contribute to the local economy but also showcase the country’s nuclear leadership on a global scale.

The two new reactors have the ability to provide electricity to 500,000 homes and businesses, all while emitting zero carbon emissions.

Even critics of Vogtle acknowledge that the United States cannot achieve carbon-free electricity without nuclear power. However, Georgia Power, along with other utilities, intends to construct additional fossil fuel generation facilities in response to the increasing demand. This surge in demand, primarily driven by the exponential growth of computer data centers, is being experienced by various utilities nationwide.

The calculations indicate that the cost of electricity from Vogtle will always be higher compared to other potential sources that the owners could have opted for. This remains the case even after the federal government stepped in to lower borrowing costs by guaranteeing repayment of $12 billion in loans.

Liz Coyle, the executive director of Georgia Watch, a consumer group that fought to limit rate increases, expressed hope that the two new units at Plant Vogtle will live up to their cost and deliver exceptional performance for the next 80 years, despite being seven years behind schedule and billions over budget.

In Georgia, almost every electric customer will contribute towards the funding of Vogtle. Georgia Power holds the majority ownership stake of 45.7% in the reactors, while smaller shares are owned by Oglethorpe Power Corp., which supplies electricity to member-owned cooperatives, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, and the city of Dalton.

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In December, regulators granted approval for Georgia Power to implement a 6% rate hike on its 2.7 million customers. This increase is aimed at covering the remaining costs of $7.56 billion at Vogtle. While the company will absorb $2.6 billion of these expenses, the typical residential customer can expect an additional monthly charge of $8.97 starting in May. This is in addition to the $5.42 increase that was already enacted when Unit 3 commenced operations.

The cost of Vogtle, despite government and utility efforts to promote nuclear power as a solution to climate change, may deter utilities from pursuing similar projects. Vogtle’s challenges have already influenced American utilities, leading them to cancel plans for 24 other reactors proposed between 2007 and 2009. Additionally, two partially constructed reactors in South Carolina were abandoned. However, Westinghouse continues to promote the reactor design internationally. China has committed to building more reactors using this design, and Bulgaria, Poland, and Ukraine have expressed their intentions to construct nuclear power stations with the Westinghouse reactor.

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