Plant Vogtle Expansion

Zach Naidu
March 21, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: Plant Vogtle expansion site. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In 2009, for the first time in more than thirty years, the United States began constructing new nuclear power plants, called Vogtle 3 and Vogtle 4 in Waynesboro, Georgia. [1] In addition to the sheer size of this project, nuclear power is one of the most frequently-discussed and hotly debated sources of energy, making this project even more intriguing. The project led by Georgia Power Southern Company is an expansion of the pre-existing Plant Vogtle nuclear energy site. [1] There are many things to consider about the Vogtle Plant expansion; however the history of the initial Vogtle Plant and both the reaction and construction of Vogtle 3 and 4 are two of the more noteworthy aspects.

Vogtle 1 and Vogtle 2

The pre-existing Vogtle plant currently consists of Vogtle 1 and 2. It was completed in the late 1980s, nearly 15 years after the initial drawing of the blueprints. Today, Vogtle 1 and Vogtle 2, pictured in Fig. 1, employ more than 800 people. [1] The $8.87 billion in construction costs - well above the initial budget - only added to the narrative of the drawbacks of nuclear energy, which began with people's concerns about the safety of such a large plant. [2] However, the plant's construction and operation weathered the criticism. The two reactors today supply 15% of Georgia's power needs, approximately 2,400 megawatts. [2]

Vogtle 3 and Vogtle 4 Construction, Opposition, and Support

In February of 2012, Southern Company received $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees to begin construction on the two Westinghouse AP1000 PWRs. [3,4] This just one year after a poll revealed that 64% of Americans opposed construction of new nuclear reactors. [3] In addition to the poll in 2011, notable opposition came from The Union of Concerned Scientists, a science advocacy group. The group's chief argument was that mismanaged construction had resulted in excessive charges to ratepayers. In addition to this cost, the group was very critical of the project's safety aspects. [4]

Despite this opposition, America's energy secretary in 2012, Steven Chu, as well as then-President Barrack Obama both endorsed the plans proceeded. [3] The reactors were initially projected to be ready for operation by 2017; however concerns over safety and bankruptcy problems with the project's initial contractor, Westinghouse, have pushed back the completion of Vogtle 3 and Vogtle 4 to 2021 and 2022, respectively. [1,3] Some of the key projected statistics of the new reactors are: 157 total fuel assemblies, 4.27 m core, and a 59.5 m3 pressurizer. [5]

Vogtle Expansion Impact and Conclusion

The construction project is anticipated to provide a total of 6,000 jobs. Upon it's completion, the expansion is expected to create 800 well-paying permanent jobs while providing more than 60 years of affordable energy for Georgians. [6] Beyond the regional impact, completion of the Vogtle project should send a strong international signal that the United States remains committed to being a world leader in energy production.

The criticisms of safety and cost efficiency surrounding the Vogtle expansion have some legitimacy. However, as America continues to grow, there will be an increasing need for energy. Given that the project has already been in motion for many years, and there are no additional safety concerns, augmenting a plant that supplies 15% of a state's energy will serve useful in the long run. This coupled with the international symbolic impact of the expansion as well as the creation of both temporary and permanent jobs in Georgia give the project enough merit to warrant completion.

© Zach Naidu. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] M. Miller, "Waynesboro Mayor 'Excited' Plant Vogtle Will Continue Construction," WJBF ABC News, 31 Aug 17.

[2] J. Gertner, "Atomic Balm?," New York Times Magazine, 16 Jul 06.

[3] "The 30-year Itch," The Economist, 18 Feb 12.

[4] C. Van de Graaf, "Plant Vogtle Reactors 3 and 4: A Case Study in Challenges for US Nuclear Construction," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2017.

[5] S. Lam, "Plant Vogtle: The Beginning of a Nuclear Renaissance?," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2012.

[6] K. Wiley, "Plant Vogtle Construction Will Continue; Ratepayers Expected to Pay More Eventually," WRDW CBS News, 21 Dec 17.