First new US nuclear reactor in decades comes online in Georgia

Unit 3’s reactor and cooling tower stand at Georgia Power Co.'s Plant Vogtle nuclear power plant on Jan. 20, 2023, in Waynesboro, Ga. Company officials announced Wednesday, May 24, 2023, that Unit 3, one of two new reactors at the site, would reach full power in coming days, after years of delays and billions in cost overruns. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

A new nuclear reactor at Plant Vogtle in Georgia has started commercial operation, marking the first new American reactor built from scratch in years.

The Unit 3 reactor can power 500,000 homes and businesses with its 1,100-megawatt output. It’s part of efforts to use nuclear power to combat climate change by generating electricity without burning fossil fuels.

However, the project faced delays and cost overruns, with the third and fourth reactors originally estimated at $14 billion but now expected to cost owners $31 billion.

WABE environmental reporter Emily Jones joined “All Things Considered” to talk about the pros and cons of using nuclear power for energy production.

“The reason it’s such an interesting conversation in the world of energy is that nuclear is incredibly expensive to produce, it’s incredibly expensive per kilowatt hour… there are environmental concerns that come along with nuclear as well,” said Jones.

The fourth reactor is set to begin operations by March. Georgia Power and other utilities will pay for Vogtle, impacting electric customers’ bills.

Christopher Alston contributed to this report.