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First New U.S. Nuclear Reactor In 40 Years Starts Operation In Georgia

After years of construction delays, the nation’s first nuclear reactor in more than 40 years is preparing to launch full operation at Plant Vogtle in Georgia.

According to a report from Southern Co., the Atlanta-based parent of Georgia Power, Unit 3 is now providing everyday power after being halted by a cooling system issue. Federal regulators have approved work to commence on Unit 4, which could open later this year.

Vogtle’s two new reactors will be able to power more than one million homes and businesses with carbon-free electricity. To help fund the endeavor, the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office issued $12 billion in loan guarantees to Georgia power providers.

Georgia’s efforts have prompted other states to consider expanding carbon-free nuclear power. This month, a Washington state public power agency announced plans to build the state’s first small modular reactors. Firms are also eyeing spaces for reactors in Virginia and Ohio.

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Proponents of Vogtle’s expansion have argued that large-scale nuclear is necessary to meet growing energy needs without climate-warning emissions. Opponents have noted past controversies and the plant’s setbacks as reasons why more Vogtles will not help President Joe Biden meet his goal of a 100% carbon-free U.S. power grid by 2035.

Despite doubts, Georgia Power CEO Kim Greene said in a statement that Unit 3’s progression into operation “marks the first day of the next 60 to 80 years that Vogtle Unit 3 will serve our customers with clean, reliable energy.”

Ava Lombardi

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