Aug 1, 2023, 10:05am EDT
net zeroNorth America

The US’s new nuclear reactor is finally online

Left to right, are units 3 and 4 at Plant Vogtle, in Burke County near Waynesboro, Georgia, on Monday, July 31, 2023. Unit 3 officially entered commercial service Monday. It makes history as the first nuclear reactor built from scratch in the U.S. in more than three decades. (Arvin Temkar/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS/ABACAPRESS.COM
Arvin Temkar/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution via Reuters

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The News

A new nuclear reactor providing energy to 500,000 homes in the southern U.S. has come online.

The Plant Vogtle reactor in Georgia became commercially operational this week, and is the first new nuclear project to be built from scratch in three decades, following several years of construction delays and running $17 billion over budget.

We’ve curated reporting and insights about the current state of U.S. nuclear power.

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  • Nuclear has long been heralded as a green energy source which could drastically reduce emissions, but the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan renewed fears of meltdowns and environmental contamination. Meanwhile, energy investors aren’t really interested in nuclear sources. “The only reason there’s a nuclear renaissance is because the federal government is throwing tens of billions of dollars at nuclear,” David Schlissel, from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said in a recent interview. — The Financial Times
  • Vogtle was supposed to launch a new era of American nuclear — before its price tag climbed to more than double its initial estimates and construction fell six years behind. Designs for the reactor weren’t finished before construction began, and the work often had to be redone due to a shortage of workers experienced in building nuclear reactors. — The Associated Press
  • Countries are reexamining their relationships with nuclear power, with both France and Japan turning back to nuclear energy following supply shortages brought about by the war in Ukraine. Perhaps most notable is China’s acceleration towards a nuclear transition: The country has centered the energy source as a key way to decarbonize. China is currently the third-largest nuclear producer in the world, but is still well behind the required target to officially phase out coal. Its nuclear fleet is young when compared to the U.S.: The average plant is about a decade old, whereas plants in the U.S. were constructed in the ‘60s and ‘70s. — Forbes
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Know More

Vogtle is the first reactor to deliver power to the grid since 2016, when the Tennessee Valley Authority made its Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor commercially active. Prior to that, no new nuclear power had been delivered to America’s electrical grid since 1996.

Vogtle is expected to operate for the next 60 to 80 years, and a second reactor at the same site is expected to commence its operations at the end of this year, or early 2024.