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Nuclear Reactor Goes Live in Georgia

Vogtle nuclear reactor 3 (Source: Georgia Power)

Georgia Power Co. yesterday announced the commercial operation of the first new nuclear reactor built in the US in more than 30 years, powering utilities in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama.

The reactor, known as Unit 3, is one of two that began construction in 2009 at Plant Vogtle, southeast of Augusta, and can power 500,000 homes and businesses at full capacity. The reactor was initially expected to start generating power in 2016; however, the project faced delays and unexpected costs, which increased from $14B to $35B. The plant already has two reactors that have been operating since 1987 and 1989. Once all four units are operational—Unit 4 is expected early next year—the site will become the nation's largest generator of clean energy. Units 3 and 4 are expected to produce about 2,234 megawatts combined, enough to power more than 1 million homes and businesses.

Nuclear energy currently accounts for about 18% of US power generation, and more US states are looking to the power source for clean energy. Experts say the US would need 200 gigawatts of advanced nuclear energy to power about 160 million homes.

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