Vogtle Construction (copy)

Construction at Plant Vogtle in Georgia is pictured in this file photo.

Georgia Power has ordered the first nuclear fuel load for the under-construction Unit 3 at Plant Vogtle, the first such order for a new reactor in the U.S. in decades.

The order "marks another significant milestone at the Vogtle nuclear expansion," the utility said in a Tuesday announcement.

The order comprises 157 fuel assemblies, each 14 feet tall, according to Georgia Power. It will be loaded into the Unit 3 reactor vessel to support startup.

Plant Vogtle in Georgia, about an hour drive south from Aiken, is home to two operating nuclear reactors. Another two – Unit 3 and Unit 4 – are currently being built. Both are expected to come online in the coming years, though the timeline has faced scrutiny.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued construction and operating licenses for the tandem project in 2012. 

Employment at the project recently hit a record high – approximately 8,000 people, according to Georgia Power.

Both U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette visited Plant Vogtle earlier this year.

Perry applauded the nuclear buildout in a speech to workers and in a later question-and-answer session with reporters.

"You know, I'm pretty happy about what I'm seeing here," Perry said at the time.

In a July 3 tweet, Perry described the Plant Vogtle expansion as an "undeniable job creator" and a "great example of American energy at its finest."

Colin Demarest is the government and Savannah River Site reporter with the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin