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New Atomic Power Plant Under Construction in Georgia Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 14th, 2022


A new nuclear plant is currently being constructed in Georgia under the name of plant Vogtle 3 and 4. This follows the successful approval of an application filed by the Southern Company to the Georgia Public Service Commission. The units under construction are the third and the fourth phases of the Vogtle plant. This is in line with the company’s desire to expand the initial size of Units 1 and 2. There have, however, been various challenges facing the construction of the plant-like increased costs, besides other challenges like opposition from the environmental groups. The purpose of this essay is to investigate the various processes that have led to the development of the Vogtle 3 and 4. This will cover the process right from the issuance of the construction permits, the construction process, the size of the output, the type of reactors to be used and the safety measures installed.

Date permits were submitted

On 15th August 2006, the Southern nuclear plant made a formal application for two additional nuclear plant units. This application was referred to as the early site Permit (ESP). In March 2008, the company further filed for a license application for the same nuclear plan units. On 31st March 2008, the Southern nuclear plant made a formal announcement that it had filed for a combined construction and operating license. The company further stated that the license for the two additional nuclear plants would take approximately 3 to 4 years before the final approval. In addition, the company undertook another certification application for Vogtle 3 and Vogtle 4 units on 1st August 2008 (Beattie, 2012).

Date of final approval

The Southern Company was granted approval for the construction of the nuclear plant by the Georgia Public Service Commission on 17th March 2009. This was the first of its kind in the United States, following the three-mile Island accident that took place in 1979. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission further issued an Early Site permit along with a Limited Work Authorization to the plant on 26th August 2009. On 26th February 2010. President Obama further guaranteed the company a loan of $8.33 Billion to cater for the construction costs (Vogtle 3 And 4: Preparing To Make Nuclear Revival A Concrete Reality, 2011). This was followed by the final approval of the two nuclear plants by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in February 2012 (Bradford, 2009).

Date of construction

Immediately after the construction license was issued by the Georgia Public Service Commission, Limited Construction started to take place at the sites, with unit 3 expected to start operating in 2016, and unit 4 in 2017. The official construction of the sites finally took place on 12th March 2013, following the final license by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Construction of the first concrete placement was completed on 15th March (Vandermey, 2012). The containment of the vessel further took place on 1st June 2013.

The latest estimate for bringing online

The two nuclear reactors that the company hopes to use are estimated to cost 14 billion dollars, making them cheaper than the other alternatives for the generation of electricity like natural gas. The design of the plants as certified by the NRC is to be brought online by 2016 and 2017, respectively (Vandermey, 2012).

The output size

The size of the plant is expected to cover 22 million cubic yards, with a capacity of 1,215 MW for each of the new units under construction. Both Vogtle 3 and 4 are expected to have a combined output of 2,430 MW. The two natural draft cooling towers are 548 ft long, have an estimated height of 167m, and are able to provide a cooling effect to the condensers at the plant. The plant has an addition of four smaller mechanical towers that are used for cooling the plant’s service waters. This is for purposes of auxiliary safety. One of the ways in which this is done is by removal of the decayed heat from the reactor when the plant is offline (Vandermey, 2012).

Type of reactors used

The nuclear plant is going to integrate the use of two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors in the management of the nuclear energy of the plants (Russell, 2013). The positive attribute associated with the use of these reactors is that they are the third generation in nature, with a higher level of safety improvement as compared to the other older reactors. However, these reactors are no longer associated with the renaissance they were thought to have.

Source of fuel

The source of fuel for the Vogtle 3 and 4 units is nuclear energy. One of the assumptions that underlie the use of nuclear energy is its ability to generate mass electricity. It is also highly efficient in nature as it is less associated with the emission of greenhouse gases. The costs associated with its use are also minimal in comparison with e use of either coal or gas. Additionally, the price of a nuclear plant as a source of fuel is more certain compared to the other two counterparts whose prices keep on fluctuating from time to time (Fertel, 2013).

Life expectancy before refueling

The nuclear power plants operating the AP 1000 reactors were initially supposed to last for a period of 40 years before the licenses would be renewed. However, the nuclear regulatory Commission has since extended the operating license to over 60 years and it is likely that their period of use will be further extended.

How will spent fuel be disposed?

The plant is regulated by the nuclear waste policy Act of 1982; thus, the federal agency under the US department of energy is responsible for the disposal of used nuclear fuel. However, because a repository has not yet been constructed by the United States Congress, most of the nuclear plants, including this one, have to store the nuclear fuel that has already been used (Russell, 2013). The storage of nuclear fuel at the plant can be done in one of two ways. The first method is referred to as the dry storage method while the second involves the storage of the fuel in steel lined concrete pools filled with water. The latter method is also referred to as the spent pool method of storage. The southern nuclear plant in Georgia uses this form of storage and it is likely that the same mode will also be applied at the newly constructed plant Vogtle in 2014.This is done through the construction of above the ground dry storage facilities (Russell, 2013).

What special safeguards (If any) were installed?

The nuclear plant has been designed to ensure that proper containment of the plant. A very strong basement forms the basement of the plant. This ensures that other components that needs to be installed at the plant have a firm and secure base. It should be noted that not just any type of concrete can be used in the construction of this kind of structure; rather nuclear grade concrete is necessary (Marsh, 2012). This means that before its placement, various quality checks need to be undertaken. This calls for the realization of rigorous manufacturing and qualification methods. This type of concrete is specifically designed and mixed for this kind of work. Most of the reinforcement and construction procedures tend to follow very strict guidelines and procedures. Also, majority of the procedures can only be performed by a trained workforce that has specifically been certified to perform these duties.

Special safeguards

To ensure utmost planning, the process went through a mock exercise through the construction of a mock site. This is aimed at stimulating the placement of the concrete before the actual process. The plant has largely been a success due to months of detailed planning. Through these vigorous processes, the Southern Company has demonstrate its commitment to safety (New Reactor Design Improves Safety, 2012). in order to ensure the safety of the nuclear plant under constructions, the Southern Company has conducted various feasibility and safety plans for several months now. Moreover, the Southern Company has also ensured that other vital services like lifts are working properly and safely, and that there is equal distribution of weights to avoid placing undue stress on certain structures.

Reference List

Beattie, J. (2012). Southern Reveals Hefty Cost Increase For New Georgia Nukes. Energy Daily, (93), 1.

Bradford, P. A. (2009). The Nuclear Renaissance Meets Economic Reality. Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists, 65(6), 60-64.

Fertel, M. S. (2013). State Of The Nuclear Energy Industry. Electric Perspectives, 38(3), 86-95.

Marsh, D. (2012). Twin Batch Plants Fuel Construction Of Just-Approved Nuclear Power Site. Concrete Products, 115(3), 10-11.

New Reactor Design Improves Safety. (2012). Business North Carolina, 32(10), 14.

Russell, P. (2013). Georgia Power’s Vogtle Plant Under New Round Of Criticism. Enr: Engineering News-Record, 270(4), 11.

Vandermey, A. (2012). New Nukes. Fortune, 165(2), 8-9.

Vogtle 3 And 4: Preparing To Make Nuclear Revival A Concrete Reality. (2011). Modern Power Systems, 31(12), 35-36.

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