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Southern Company (SO) Continues to Hit Milestones at Vogtle Plant

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The Southern Company’s SO wholly-owned subsidiary Georgia Power announced the commencement of the hot functional test for its nearly-finished Vogtle Unit 3 turbine system.

Vogtle Unit 3 is one of Georgia Power’s new units at the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, currently underway in the United States. The hot functional test is considered the last crucial step before fuel load and the new reactor is placed in service. Notably, it is expected to be completed in six to eight weeks.

The testing is carried out to validate the effective functioning of reactor components and systems at once, and it confirms that the reactor is ready for fuel load. During the testing process, the team members will start operating the Unit 3 plant systems without nuclear fuel and proceed through the process to obtain normal operating pressure and temperature.

Nuclear operators will utilize the heat produced by the four reactor coolant pumps of the unit to increase the temperature and pressure of plant systems to normal operating levels. Once they are obtained, the main turbine will be raised to normal operating speed with the help of steam generated from the plant.

Moreover, for Vogtle Unit 4, a 750,000-gallon water tank has been installed on top of the containment vessel and shield building roof. The water storage tank, which is 35 feet tall and weighs more than 720,000 pounds, is an essential part of the advanced passive safety system of the AP1000 reactor. It is expected to hold 750,000 gallons of water, which is ready to flow in emergencies to help cool the reactor.

The passive safety systems of the AP1000 reactor do not require operator actions to reduce potential emergencies. Apart from a few simple valves, the systems use natural forces such as gravity, natural circulation and compressed gas to obtain their safety function.

The Vogtle expansion project suffered continued timing and cost overrun issues over the years. However, in 2020, plant Vogtle achieved several milestones in the construction of Unit 3. This nuclear expansion project is regarded as the largest employment-generating construction project in Georgia, which will create more than 800 permanent jobs once online and power more than 500,000 homes and businesses.

Georgia Power hopes to maintain the in-service dates for Units 3 and 4 in November 2021 and 2022, respectively, and aims to deliver clean and reliable energy for customers.

Company Profile & Price Performance

Headquartered in Atlanta, GA, Southern Company is one of the largest utility companies in the United States.

Shares of this utility have outperformed the industry in the past six months. Its stock has gained 10.5% compared with the industry’s 5.9% growth.

Zacks Rank & Stocks to Consider

Southern Company currently carries a Zack Rank #3 (Hold).

Some better-ranked players in the utility space are China Resources Power Holdings Company CRPJY, Otter Tail Corporation OTTR and Electricite de France SA ECIFY, each currently carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

China Resources’ earnings for 2021 are expected to rise 14.5% year over year.

Otter Tail’s earnings for 2021 are expected to grow 6.2% year over year.

Electricite’s earnings for 2021 are expected to rise 4.8% year over year.

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