1 of 2 | The start of operations at a new unit at a nuclear facility operated by Georgia Power marks the first such addition to the U.S. grid in more than 30 years. Photo courtesy of Georgia Power.
July 31 (UPI) -- Southern U.S. utility company Georgia Power said Monday it started commercial operations at the new unit of a nuclear power plant, the first such facility to come online in the country in more than 30 years.
"Georgia Power declared today that Plant Vogtle Unit 3 has entered commercial operation and is now serving customers and the state of Georgia," the company stated. "The new unit represents a long-term investment in the state's clean energy future and will provide reliable, emissions-free energy to customers for decades to come."
The Energy Department expects only incremental gains in nuclear power capacity, with the share increasing only 1% to 20% of the total grid's electricity by next year. But with the addition of Vogtle, total nuclear capacity is expected to expand by 2% over the next six months, compared with the second half of 2022.
Monday's start of commercial operations marked the first such addition to the U.S. grid in more than 30 years and Georgia Power said it expects the facility to be in service for at least another 60 years, helping to meet the energy demand of an estimated 500,000 consumers.
Georgia Power expects the fourth and final phase of construction for the expansion at the Vogtle site to be completed no later than the first quarter of next year. Unit 4 has already received some nuclear fuel in preparation for startup.
"The Plant Vogtle 3 & 4 nuclear expansion is another incredible example of how Georgia Power is building a reliable and resilient energy future for our state," said Kim Greene, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power. "It is important that we make these kinds of long-term investments and see them through so we can continue providing clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy to our 2.7 million customers."
Nuclear power fell out of favor in the wake of the meltdown at the Fukushima power facility in Japan in 2011, but has seen renewed support and technological advances.
In December, the U.S. Energy Department announced that scientists produced more energy from fusion than the laser energy used to drive it for the first time ever, a historic breakthrough for the long-sought-after power source.
Unlike fission, the most common form of nuclear energy today, fusion is the process by which two nuclei combine to form a single heavier nucleus, releasing a large amount of energy. The ability to harness such power could theoretically lead to an endless source of clean energy due to the chain reactions involved.