Southern Nuclear has signed an agreement to load four Lead Test Assemblies (LTAs) with next-generation fuel features into Unit 2 of the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant (Plant Vogtle). The installation, which will include innovative pellets and cladding developed within the U.S. Department of Energy’s enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (ATF) program, is expected to enhance safety and offer operational savings and efficiencies. In addition to enhanced accident tolerant features, the LTAs include the first planned installation of enrichments of uranium-235 greater than 5 weight percent in a domestic commercial reactor.
“Our top priority is the safety and health of the public and our employees, and this game-changing technology bolsters plant reliability, strengthening our ability to support our communities and customers with the power they need around the clock,” said Southern Nuclear Executive Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer Pete Sena. “The installation of test assemblies with enrichments that are above historical limits marks another significant advancement in the potential commercial deployment of advanced nuclear fuel technology, which will support our ability to deliver clean, safe, reliable, carbon-free electricity for decades to come.”
Southern Nuclear is a recognized leader within the commercial nuclear industry in incremental deployment of enhanced accident tolerant fuel technology, having been the first in the world to install GE-Hitachi ATF fuel cladding technologies in 2018 at Plant Hatch Unit 1 with samples subsequently discharged and shipped to Oak Ridge National Lab for further testing in 2020. In 2019, Vogtle Unit 2 installed four Framatome-developed GAIA lead fuel assemblies containing enhanced accident-tolerant features applied to full-length fuel rods.
The Vogtle lead test assembly program will couple Westinghouse’s High Energy Fuel initiative and the EnCore® Fuel program with the intent of lowering the cost of electricity while increasing the fuel’s resiliency.
“These advancements will enable existing nuclear assets across the industry to realize their current operational strategies as well as deliver on their long-term needs,” said Pam Cowan, Westinghouse president of Americas Operating Plant Services.
Through a partnership with Idaho National Laboratory and the Department of Energy, fabrication of the LTAs is scheduled to take place in 2023. The LTAs will utilize four enriched lead test rods of up to 6.0 weight percent uranium-235 – one percent higher than the current licensed limit. They will also contain ADOPT™ uranium dioxide pellets, AXIOM™ fuel rod cladding and chromium-coated cladding combined with Westinghouse’s advanced PRIME™ fuel assembly design.
For more than 40 years, Southern Nuclear has operated nuclear energy facilities safely and reliably, creating carbon-free electricity for millions of homes and businesses. Southern Nuclear operates six units for Alabama Power and Georgia Power at the Joseph M. Farley Nuclear Plant near Dothan, Ala.; the Edwin I. Hatch Nuclear Plant near Baxley, Ga.; and the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant near Waynesboro, Ga. Southern Nuclear is the licensee of two new nuclear units under construction at Plant Vogtle, which are the first new nuclear units being built in the United States in the last three decades.
Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
Certain information contained in this release is forward-looking information based on current expectations and plans that involve risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking information includes, among other things, statements concerning expected safety and efficiency enhancements. Southern Nuclear cautions that there are certain factors that can cause actual results to differ materially from the forward-looking information that has been provided. The reader is cautioned not to put undue reliance on this forward-looking information, which is not a guarantee of future performance and is subject to a number of uncertainties and other factors, many of which are outside the control of Southern Nuclear; accordingly, there can be no assurance that such suggested results will be realized. The following factors, in addition to those discussed in Southern Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year that ended December 31, 2020 and subsequent securities filings, could cause actual results to differ materially from management expectations as suggested by such forward-looking information: the ability to successfully operate nuclear generating facilities and the inherent risks involved in operating nuclear generating facilities. Southern Nuclear expressly disclaims any obligation to update any forward-looking information.
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