It is official; the United States will soon begin constructing its first new nuclear power reactors in 30 years.
Southern Company, Inc. has received approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a a combined construction and operating license (COL) for two nuclear power units at their Plant Vogtle. With the COL in hand Southern Company subsidiary, Georgia Power which owns 45% of the project and its partners will begin construction on Units 3 and 4 marking a new age of nuclear power generation in the U.S.
This decision comes just a month and a half after the NRC approved the new nuclear reactor design developed by Toshiba Corporation subsidiary Westinghouse Electric Company and just six months after the Commission delivered its Final Safety Evaluation Report (FSER) asserting that the plant design is safe.
In a formal statement Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning applauded the freshly streamlined NRC licensing process while reiterating that safety is the company's fist priority.
"The new process for nuclear licensing is thoughtful, thorough and complete. It delivers the safety oversight and accountability our communities rightfully demand. Southern Company's no-excuses policy is simple, and I get it completely: Safety comes first. The new NRC license creates that standard... and Southern Company plans to exceed it," said Fanning.
Fanning also thanked "the Obama Administration, members of Congress, Secretary Chu and the Department of Energy (DOE), for their ardent support during the approval process.
President Obama has been a fervent supporter of nuclear power generation. In the wake of the Japanese nuclear disaster which created worldwide unrest and called into question the safety of nuclear power, Obama proposed a 2012 budget which included $36 billion in loan guarantee authority to help deploy a new generation of American nuclear reactors and $11.6 billion for the Department's National Nuclear Security Administration.
In fact, the Vogtle project will be using an $8.33 billion DOE loan guarantee. Government-backed energy projects have come under fire over the past six months after three renewable energy companies went bankrupt with DOE loan support or grants behind them.
The loan guarantee for the Voglte project is 12 times the size of the largest loan guarantee of the now three failed companies. With this in mind, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) has asked asked a court to force the Department of Energy (DOE) and Southern Company to provide information pertaining to the loan guarantee -- specifically information detailing the risks taxpayers are exposed to with the enormous amount of money the government is gambling on.
Southern Company doesn't see the backing as a gamble but instead as a means to create benefits to its customers.
“Our communities and our country will benefit from this more than $14 billion investment, representing 4,000 to 5,000 jobs on site during peak construction, and in the process creating over 25,000 direct and indirect jobs by this project alone,” said Georgia Power President and CEO Paul Bowers.
Units 3 and 4 are expected to begin commercial operation in 2016 and 2017 and will each generate 1,100 MW.
Image Credit: Southern Company Inc.
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