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The First New U.S. Nuclear Reactor Since 2016 Begins Splitting Atoms

The Vogtle Unit 3 nuclear power reactor has safely reached initial criticality, a milestone toward full commercial operations expected later this year in what would be the first new nuclear reactor in the United States starting activity since 2016.  

Vogtle Unit 3 has safely reached initial criticality, Georgia Power, Southern Nuclear, and Westinghouse Electric Company said this week.

Initial criticality is a key step during the startup testing sequence and demonstrates that – for the first time – operators have safely started the nuclear reaction inside the reactor. This means atoms are being split and nuclear heat is being made, which will be used to produce steam, Georgia Power said.  

The in-service date for Unit 3 is projected during May or June 2023.

Vogtle Unit 3 is the first reactor to start up in the United States since Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar 2 back in 2016.  

Vogtle Units 3 and 4 are expected to power more than 500,000 homes and businesses, Georgia Power said in a statement.

Southern Nuclear will operate the new units on behalf of the co-owners: Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities.

Nuclear power generation is a pillar of the Biden Administration’s ambition to have America run on zero-carbon electricity by 2035.

Earlier this month, as part of a program to support nuclear power generation and the goal of zero-carbon electricity by 2035, the Biden Administration offered funding of $1.2 billion to nuclear power reactors that are at risk of retiring soon or that ceased operations since November 15, 2021.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) last week released application guidance for the second award cycle of the Civil Nuclear Credit Program, a $6 billion funding part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The second round of funding makes funds available – for the first time – to reactors that ceased operations after November 15, 2021.

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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