Fayette County residents perhaps don’t pay much attention to what happens all the way over on the eastern border of Georgia, but what’s happening in Waynesboro these days will have a significant, albeit quiet, impact on all Georgians for generations to come.
Waynesboro’s claim to fame is that it is home to Plant Vogtle, which is destined in the next few years to become the United States’ largest nuclear power plant and the first to go online with the next generation of technological and safety improvements. According to promotional material, “Vogtle units 3 and 4 will be among the first new nuclear units built in the U.S. in the last three decades.”
Plant Vogtle is, of course, run by and principally owned by Southern Company, the parent company to Georgia Power. The plant is also partly owned by Oglethorpe Power Corporation, Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Dalton Utilities. Oglethorpe Power Corporation is partly owned by Coweta-Fayette Electrical Membership Corporation.
Electricity generated from Plant Vogtle helps power the grid that serves Fayette County’s EMC and Georgia Power customers.
Vogtle went online with its first reactor in 1987 and the second in 1989. If all goes as planned, the third and fourth reactors will commence in 2017 and 2018. Construction is well underway now, which was the point of a recent tour specially hosted for Georgia Press Association members, including this newspaper.
As part of the tour, reporters were driven through the Unit 3 & 4 construction site, which will employ around 5,000 workers through completion of the project. That makes the Vogtle expansion the largest job-creating project in Georgia. When the new units go online, around 800 permanent jobs will have been added to the rolls.
Plant Vogtle already employs around 800 people to run Units 1 & 2.
The tour also included an overview of the environmental impact Plant Vogtle has on its region of Georgia. According to Southern Company sources, “The combined effect of the structural, mechanical and human safety systems built into our nuclear plants means that a person living within a few miles of a plant receives less radiation from its presence than from watching television.”
Indeed, the concrete construction of the plant’s reactor buildings and storage facilities are so sturdy that they are impenetrable by aircraft or other missiles. In fact, the airspace over Plant Vogtle, while monitored for security purposes, is not restricted even for general aviation.
While around one percent of Savannah River’s water flows into Plant Vogtle, most of it is delivered back to the river without coming into direct contact with any radioactive materials, which means it returns untainted back to the river. It is also cooled back to within a degree of the temperature of the water that was taken out of the river.
Spent fuel, until the federal government approves a permanent dry fuel containment facility, is stored at Plant Vogtle, again in structures so sturdy as to be practically indestructible.
So how does the addition of Units 3 & 4 impact Fayette County?
Power produced by Plant Vogtle enters Southern Company’s electric grid serving the entire State of Georgia and beyond. That power is delivered to residential, commercial and industrial consumers by Georgia Power and even by Coweta-Fayette EMC, which is a part owner of Oglethorpe Power Corporation, which is part owner of Plant Vogtle, including the new expansion.
Known for delivering some of the least expensive electricity in the county, Southern Company spokespeople say expansion of Plant Vogtle will ensure adequate base level energy is available into the future, keeping power bills more affordable.
When you consider how competitive states have become in attracting industry, and especially the film industry within the Southeast, anything that keeps overhead costs lower is a benefit to the local economy.