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The U.S. Gets Its First New Nuclear Reactor After 40 Years

The U.S. Gets Its First New Nuclear Reactor After 40 Years - Certrec

After more than 40 years, the U.S. has its first new nuclear reactor running in Waynesboro, Georgia. The completion of the new units at Plant Vogtle, is a huge milestone for nuclear energy in the United States. They are the first new reactors in decades.

The two new units at Plant Vogtle are an addition to the two existing units. With all four units running at full capacity, Plant Vogtle will be ‘the largest nuclear-generating complex in the U.S.’ It will outshine the output of the site in Palo Verde, Arizona, which as three reactors.

Vogtle’s Carbon Free Promise

The climate crisis has advanced, making it extremely necessary to decarbonize. Renewable energy sources are considered ‘intermittent,’ making nuclear power plants more attractive, as they are not dependent on the sun or the wind.

According to Tim Echols, a commissioner on the Georgia Public Service Commission, “As we’re closing coal plants, we have to replace them with something.”

While talking about Vogtle’s promise of controlling emissions, Georgia Tech’s public policy professor, Marilyn Brown said that ‘eventually, both new nuclear units could help Georgia Power cut emissions by as much as five to ten percent.’

Consumers Are Paying the Construction Costs in Their Bills

According to WABE, in 2009, the Georgia Public Service Commission approved Georgia Power’s request to begin construction. Around that time, a law was signed by Georgia’s Governor, Sonny Perdue, allowing Georgia Power to make customers pay financing costs during construction. The reactors were supposed to be completed by 2017, at a cost of $14 billion.

The announcement about the completion of Vogtle came with an increase in Georgia Power customers’ bills, for the second time this year. A small group was seen rallying to protest rising bills, outside the company’s Atlanta headquarters.

Is It the End of the Reactor As We Know It?

Eric Wesoff, the editorial director at Canary Media, asked three experts on nuclear power, what the next commercial reactor to come online in the U.S. would be. One of the experts said, “Unfortunately, no Gen 3+ reactors are scheduled to come online. The next development will most likely come from ‘advanced reactors,’ aka Gen 4.”

Will Small Modular Nuclear Reactors Be More Reliable and Cost Effective?

Advanced nuclear reactors use special coolants that help them run at a lower, safer pressure.  They are promoted as safer, more efficient in generating emissions-free electricity, while costing less.

According to WABE’s article, John Kotek of the Nuclear Energy Institute said that ‘utilities are looking for new nuclear projects that would have a more reliable cost and schedule.’ He said that ‘companies are focusing on smaller reactors that would generate hundreds of megawatts, instead of thousands like the Vogtle reactors.’ 

However, critics are saying that the Vogtle promised to be a new kind of reactor that would be cheaper to build at a lower cost. We know now that things turned out very differently. University of British Columbia’s physicist and nuclear power skeptic M.V. Ramana says, “There’s no reason to think small modular reactors will be different.”

Disclaimer: Any opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Certrec. This content is meant for informational purposes only.