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A new, long-awaited nuclear reactor is finally about to open — and it's going to have a shocking effect on our power grid

"This is a truly exciting time."

Georgia Power's new nuclear power plant

Photo Credit: iStock

Georgia Power's newest reactor has been activated this month at Plant Vogtle, CNBC reports — the first new U.S.-based nuclear power plant in seven years.

Construction was completed on the Unit 3 reactor in late 2022, making it the first new facility of its kind in the U.S. in three decades. The reactor faced several delays in construction but is now set to begin producing power in May or June. 

Chris Womack, CEO of Georgia Power, told CNBC that the reactor will last 60 to 80 years, helping to provide power to the one million homes Plant Vogtle will serve.

Along with Unit 4, which is still under construction, the reactor represents a $30 billion investment in more affordable, reliable, and cleaner energy. The U.S. has relied largely on coal power for decades, putting a huge volume of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere each year — over one billion tons in 2021, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. 

But now, many states are closing down their coal plants and shifting to more affordable, environmentally friendly alternatives

Energy sources like wind, water, and solar power are seen as ideal because they create no pollution and are affordable for users. However, they can only generate electricity when the weather allows, so to power homes and businesses day and night, energy providers need massive energy storage to save up electricity. 

So far, the U.S. doesn't have the battery capacity or the large number of wind and solar farms needed to switch completely to these methods.

But while we wait, coal and other dirty fuels are increasing air pollution every moment. For this reason, many argue that we need more nuclear plants, which generate power 24/7 and don't produce heat-trapping gases. Nuclear is a key step in shifting away from energy sources that warm up the planet and toward ones that are fully safe for the environment.

"This is a truly exciting time as we prepare to bring online a new nuclear unit that will serve our state with clean and emission-free energy," Womack said in a press statement. "We remain focused on safely bringing this unit online, fully addressing any issues, and getting it right at every level."

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