Three Decades in the Making: America’s Newest Nuclear Reactor

By Dr. David Gattie

It has been three decades since the United States has taken the momentous final steps associated with building a new nuclear reactor.

This month, the only nuclear power reactors currently under construction in America – Plant Vogtle 3 & 4 in Georgia – will achieve the important milestone of the placement of the containment vessel top head. If the reactor is the heart of the plant, the containment building is the ribcage, keeping everything inside safe and protected.

Engineers, clean energy advocates across the country and the citizens of Georgia have reason to celebrate this occasion, as it signals we will soon see the country’s first new nuclear reactor in thirty years.

Celebrating the milestone

Vogtle 3’s new containment building is both large in physical presence and figurative meaning. It’s made with reinforced concrete floors, walls and roofs, along with a supporting steel truss system. Safety is paramount in nuclear power plants, beginning with the construction and continuing well beyond when a plant retires, and the placement of the containment dome represents a renewed commitment to that safety.

Moreover, this milestone is a timely testament to the outsized role nuclear power plays in both clean energy generation and national security. As more nations are competing for energy independence and clean energy dominance, nuclear power has never been more important to America’s leadership in this space.

New nuclear power for Georgia…

The AP1000 technology being built at the Vogtle plant has been proven to be safer and more economical than previous generations of nuclear reactors. Already operational in China, this advanced pressurized water reactor technology streamlines controls and construction for easy build and operation. It will be the first of its kind in America, and hopefully not the last.

For Georgians, these new reactors mean 500,000 homes and businesses will be powered by clean, reliable nuclear power, which provides 89 percent of the state’s carbon-free electricity. Together, they’ll support 800 permanent jobs at the plant and hundreds more in the surrounding community. But the impacts of these reactors will go far beyond the Peach State.

…And nuclear innovation for America

To stay ahead in the industry and the world, we must invest in modern and innovative technologies like this. The new Vogtle reactors are key to positioning our international influence in the industry, creating the technology and safety standards for the world. Nuclear energy is more than a commodity – it’s a symbol of American success, at home and abroad.   

I’ll be celebrating the containment vessel top head placement for many reasons: for Vogtle being one step closer to completing construction, for Georgia investing in a clean energy future, for the promise of more innovation to come in nuclear energy industry and for America reclaiming our rightful place at the forefront of the industry globally.