Eastern Georgia will soon become the site of the first nuclear power plant to be built in the United States in 30 years. Plant Vogtle will host two new AP1000 Westinghouse nuclear reactors, joining two units that have been in place since 1989. Owned by Georgia Power, a division of Southern Company, Plant Vogtle will provide electricity for over half a million homes and businesses throughout the state.
In this video, Cheri Collins, Nuclear Liaison at Southern Company, and Paulo Albuquerque, Performance Improvement Manager at Southern Nuclear, explain how the nuclear power plant is being built, and the benefits that it will have to the state of Georgia.
Georgia Power expects the two new nuclear reactors, Unit 3 and Unit 4, to come online in 2016 and 2017. These state-of-the-art units from Westinghouse have new safety features that enable it to maintain safe shutdown condition without the need for A/C power or human intervention for 72 hours. Rather than relying on active components like diesel generators and pumps, these reactors use gravity, natural circulation and compressed gases to keep the core and containment from overheating.
The reactors use steam to produce electricity. Atoms in the fuel, uranium 235, are split to generate heat, which boils water in the steam generator. The generator then sends steam to a turbine. From there, the power plant works just like any other megawatt-producing facility.
The process of building the new nuclear power plant is complex, says Albuquerque. Components for the plant are being built all over the world, including modular parts under construction in Louisiana. These components are sent to a fabrication building where they're welded together. Because these parts are so large, builders are using the largest crane in the world to move them.
"Nuclear power is very safe," says Collins. "It is a technology that we have been relying on to produce 20% of electricity in the United States for over 50 years. It has one of the lowest industrial safety accident rates of any industry in the world. At Southern Company, our all-arrows-in-the-quiver approach to power generation includes nuclear. That means that nuclear, along with 21st century coal, renewables, natural gas and energy efficiency, are all necessary to provide our customers with a safe, reliable, efficient, cost-effective source of electricity."