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Visiting Vogtle and Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plants

September 6, 2011

The control room in Unit 2 at Plant Vogtle, August 12, 2011, just before 5:00PM. Reactor controls at left, balance of plant on the right. The reactor is at full power. A routine maintenance and refuelling shutdown is planned for the Fall.

The American South is widely seen as the most viable US market for new nuclear power plants.  Although the “nuclear renaissance” faces serious obstacles in the post-Fukushima world, if reactors are to be put on the grid then the South is almost certainly where it will happen first.  Dominion’s North Anna plant, which I visited in 2009, plans to add an ESBWR. This August 12th and 15th I accompanied Atlanta fusion hobbyist Chad Ramey, his father, and friend Steven Shaw to two other southern nuclear nurseries. Plant Vogtle (pronounced “VO-gel” in local dialect) is an operating two-unit Westinghouse PWR plant of recent vintage that is adding two additional Westinghouse AP1000 reactors.  Bellefonte Nuclear Generating Station, by marked contrast, is a 37-year-old never-completed Babcock and Wilcox PWR plant with two units, one of which TVA elected to complete by unanimous vote of its board on August 18.

Nuclear power plants are some of the most uptight and inaccessible places on the planet unless you work there, so I’m grateful to Mike McCracken at Plant Vogtle and to Chris Griffin at TVA for accommodating us.  I’m especially indebted to Mike for all the photos from Plant Vogtle.   (Unfortunately there is a strict no-photography policy in place at Bellefonte, so my gallery contains just two exterior shots.  However, we visited the reactor vessel head, a steam generator, spent fuel pools, a cable spreader room, and the well-preserved ’70s-vintage control room, among many other parts of the plant.)  Click any image below for a larger version with caption.

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