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Feds back two new reactors at Plant Vogtle

Obama announces loan guarantees for Burke County project

SPECIAL
If construction goes as planned, Plant Vogtle's new reactors could go online in 2016 and 2017.
Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010 6:19 AM
Last updated Thursday, July 1, 2010 7:18 PM
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The federal government agreed Tuesday to stand behind loans that will help build two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

President Obama delivered remarks on energy jobs during his visit to International Brotherhood of Electricians Local 26 headquarters in Lanham, Md., on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010.  ASSOCIATED PRESS
ASSOCIATED PRESS
President Obama delivered remarks on energy jobs during his visit to International Brotherhood of Electricians Local 26 headquarters in Lanham, Md., on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010.

President Obama announced the $8.33 billion in loan guarantees for Southern Nuclear's plan to add two new reactors to the plant in Burke County.

"This will be the first new nuclear power plant to break ground in America in decades," U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said later during a White House conference call with reporters.

The conditional commitment is for loans that would apply to Vogtle Units 3 and 4, which would go online in 2016 and 2017. The project cost has been estimated at $14.5 billion.

Under the loan-guarantee program, the government promises to assume a company's debt if the company defaults. Because of the huge -- and potentially varying -- costs of new nuclear reactors, the loan guarantees make it easier for energy companies to undertake such projects.

"The project we're announcing today will create up to 3,500 construction jobs and, once the reactors become operational, will sustain about 800 permanent jobs," Chu said, adding his hopes that Tuesday's announcement will be the first of many such awards.

In all, the Energy Department received 19 applications seeking more than $120 billion in financing under the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005, which is designed to accelerate development of energy programs.

The program -- with only $18.5 billion appropriated by Congress for nuclear projects -- has enough current funding to assist two or three applicants, with an additional $36 billion being proposed by the Obama administration for loan guarantees.

The Vogtle project, which includes two new 1,100-megawatt reactors, stood out as the most likely recipient for the nation's first award, Chu said.

"I think they were further along in the process; they had already begun some site preparation; and their partners are companies in good standing," he said. "We felt simply that this was a project that had a low probability of default."

Southern Nuclear, owned by Southern Co., operates the plant for its co-owners, including Georgia Power Co., which owns 45.7 percent of Vogtle. The remaining ownership is split among Oglethorpe Power Corp., the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Dalton Utilities.

Southern Co. CEO David Ratcliffe said in a news release that Georgia Power has 90 days to accept the conditional commitment. The company's borrowings would not exceed $3.4 billion, with the remainder of the loan guarantees available to the other owners of the plant.

Environmental groups expressed concerns over the loan guarantee program and the risks it could pose to taxpayers.

"The only thing today's announcement does is shift risk from the company and financial institutions to the back of the taxpayer," said Tom Clements, the Southeast nuclear campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth. "The risk of spiraling costs, failure to secure licenses or project abandonment stays the same, and the bet on new reactors at the Vogtle site still remains uncertain."

Sara Barczak of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy echoed similar concerns.

"We are very disappointed with the administration putting the U.S. taxpayer on the hook for the risky, costly proposed new Vogtle reactors when cleaner, safer more affordable choices exist, including efficiency and bio-power, wind and solar that create good jobs that keep dollars here in Georgia's communities," Barczak said.

Despite criticisms that past generations of nuclear projects have faced delays and cost overruns, Chu expressed confidence in new regulatory programs -- and new technology -- that will help keep new projects such as Vogtle on time and within budget.

"We are doing a lot to help streamline many things regarding construction of these power plants," he said. "The NRC is also working to speed the regulatory process and approval."

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's new "combined operating license" program -- which Plant Vogtle will be among the first to navigate -- includes safeguards that could avoid some of the costly delays that plagued reactors in the 1970s and 1980s.

The program simultaneously authorizes construction and operation of the reactors, and replaces a system in which utility companies worked for years to obtain a license, then would become mired in changing regulations in their quest for a second license to operate a plant.

"Across the board we are looking at ways we can build these things on time and on budget," Chu said.

He also expressed confidence in new technology -- and specifically in the AP1000 reactors designed by Westinghouse that will be used at Vogtle and other new projects.

A unique feature of the reactors is a passive safety system that uses natural forces such as gravity and convection. In an accident, the plant is designed to shut down without operator action and without power or pumps. Emergency cooling water tanks 100 feet above the ground will hold more than 6 million pounds of water.

The new reactors also will have fewer pumps and tanks, miles less electrical cable and barely half the valves of their predecessors. They are designed to be easier to assemble and operate, partly because of a modular design that incorporates components from many locations.

Other finalists in contention for existing loan guarantee program allocations are South Carolina Electric & Gas Co.'s V.C. Summer project in South Carolina and two others in Texas and Maryland.

Chu said Tuesday that other announcements of loan guarantees could be made soon.

"We're working with the applicants to get through them as fast as we can," he said. "One can't say, with the complexity of these agreements, exactly when the next announcement will be. But we're working very hard."

Georgia Power to raise rates

ATLANTA --- Georgia Power still plans to increase rates next year to finance two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle despite billions of dollars in federal loan guarantees announced Tuesday.

Georgia Power spokesman Jeff Wilson said any savings the utility will see from the federal loan backing won't occur until January 2012. That means ratepayers will see their electric bills rise by an average of $1.30 a month in 2011 as planned, he said.

Last year, the Georgia Legislature approved a bill allowing Georgia Power to begin charging ratepayers for the expansion at Plant Vogtle some six years before the first of the two new reactors is set to go online. Under the bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Sonny Perdue, the rates will gradually step up until ratepayers are paying an additional $9.10 a month in 2017.

In a conference call with reporters, Georgia Power chief executive officer David Ratcliffe said the loan guarantees will lower the financing costs of the project.

Wilson says the utility could reconsider additional rate increases set to take effect moving forward after it begins to realize savings from the loan guarantees. That would be 2012 at the earliest.

-- Associated Press

Comments (32) Add comment
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RoadkiII
6807
Points
RoadkiII 02/16/10 - 07:44 am
0
0
This is one thing I agree

This is one thing I agree with. Nuclear energy is the cleanest and cheapest form of energy we have at the present time. Work still needs to be done to develope other forms of energy production.

msgret92
121
Points
msgret92 02/16/10 - 11:00 am
0
0
How can Obama take credit for

How can Obama take credit for this when he jumped in the middle of a done deal? Does this loan guarantee reduce the approved rate increase for financing the new reactor?

wizzardx1
0
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wizzardx1 02/16/10 - 11:05 am
0
0
hussein in danger of losing

hussein in danger of losing the mexican vote!let's get this amnesty program in gear for the 2010 elections!

corgimom
38356
Points
corgimom 02/16/10 - 11:49 am
0
0
It wasn't a done deal, they

It wasn't a done deal, they couldn't get financing. And wizzard, what on Earth are you talking about?

dichotomy
37436
Points
dichotomy 02/16/10 - 12:05 pm
0
0
Why do they need a loan

Why do they need a loan guarantee if we are paying for it in advance? They take our money in advance and then get a government loan guarantee. GA Power in the Utility Commission should have sent me some flowers and candy for Valentine's day because they've certainly been having their way with me (if you know what I mean) for the past year.

wizzardx1
0
Points
wizzardx1 02/16/10 - 01:11 pm
0
0
corgimom,check

corgimom,check mcclatchy-latinos claim to be able to influence 40 congressional seats

corgimom
38356
Points
corgimom 02/16/10 - 01:15 pm
0
0
Wizzard, WHAT amnesty program

Wizzard, WHAT amnesty program are you talking about, and how does that relate to nuclear plant construction? Because illegal Mexicans aren't employed as nuke plant workers.

Little Lamb
48992
Points
Little Lamb 02/16/10 - 03:02 pm
0
0
Look at Rob Pavey's first

Look at Rob Pavey's first sentence above. The energy from nuclear power plants comes from uranium. Last time I looked they weren't making any more of that. Nuclear energy can hardly be classified as "renewable."

boonieman45
0
Points
boonieman45 02/16/10 - 03:54 pm
0
0
Augusta has been on

Augusta has been on standstill four 30 years.If Barack does'nt do anything to advance the City,who will.You Bama's ought to be happy there is any form of advancement.2800 illegals.They would'nt be here if it was'nt for "W".He allowed illegals to pour in at checkpoints,now they're trying to starve them out.Personally,i have no problem with people who work,Black,White,Blue or Brown.You should'nt either.

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 02/16/10 - 04:38 pm
0
0
The Metro and CSRA are going

The Metro and CSRA are going to boom! Jobs and more jobs coming to the metro. SRS, NSA, Medical District, Ft. Gordon, Procter and Gamble, Wells Fargo/Wachovia, American Tire, ADP, T-Mobile, etc.

dwb619
104117
Points
dwb619 02/16/10 - 04:42 pm
0
0
OMG, here come those UNION

OMG, here come those UNION construction workers again. With their decent wages, health insurance, and adequate pension plans. But, they don't allow illegals in their unions. Oh well, maybe I can get my lawn mowed cheap.

dwb619
104117
Points
dwb619 02/16/10 - 04:47 pm
0
0
Uranium is being mined and

Uranium is being mined and processed in the south-western United States on a daily basis. It takes very little uranium to power a 1000 mega-watt unit. One fueling last 18 months.

Georgiais1
0
Points
Georgiais1 02/16/10 - 05:15 pm
0
0
What are they going to do

What are they going to do with the waste once it goes on line? Obamrama has already closed Yucca Mnt down. Does this guy think at all?

subterraneanne
0
Points
subterraneanne 02/16/10 - 08:19 pm
0
0
Dont like Nobama get it??? No

Dont like Nobama get it??? No to NObama NObama but like nukes and oil. Like our 12 prez Sara says drill baby drill babby drill Sara drill baby RUn RUN RUN. Nuke clean safe and two cheap to meter. More gas for me and USA USA USA.

Riverman1
93591
Points
Riverman1 02/17/10 - 05:13 am
0
0
Just get these reactors and

Just get these reactors and hundreds more built fast as we can. Cars converted to electricity. This is our only solution for the near future. Standardize plans and methods and get these things working.

wribbs
521
Points
wribbs 02/17/10 - 06:35 am
0
0
When it comes to building a

When it comes to building a nuclear plant most of the uncertainty is created by the government. When Three Mile Island happened in 1979 they were in the process of building units 1 and 2. The accident there caused the government to impose regulations on Georgia Power that hadn't been figured into the original costs. It almost bankrupted Georgia Power, that's why the EMC's in Georgia, MEAG's and the City of Dalton now own a piece of it; they helped bail GP out. I know it's our money, but the government creates the uncertainty, let them be on the hook for it.

seenitB4
97378
Points
seenitB4 02/17/10 - 06:50 am
0
0
We need the jobs & we need

We need the jobs & we need the power.. go for it.. sooner the better..France has many plants & has been doing fine ...Just put QUALIFIED workers in there..

boonieman45
0
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boonieman45 02/17/10 - 07:08 am
0
0
-The majority of you guys

-The majority of you guys don't know whats going on.SeenitB4 is the only one with a political agenda.You republicans talk about the confusion of democrats.You are really lost.You vote for "W" he ruined the economy,you blame it on obama,and now you wanna bring in Palin.Mass confusion.His name is not nobama.President Obama is his name.You should focus on the bama part.Thats exactly what you are BAMA!!!!!!!!

55 F-100
1
Points
55 F-100 02/17/10 - 07:27 am
0
0
Be wary of a

Be wary of a teleprompter-reading empty suit snake-oil salesman taking credit for an effort which was hatched when he was still part of the Chicago mafia. Prezbhojangles will tap dance around the truth and only the ill informed will believe his claims.

lifelongresidient
0
Points
lifelongresidient 02/17/10 - 07:45 am
0
0
my question is, when the

my question is, when the construction starts who will be getting the jobs...will ther be any oversight to make sure the illegal aliens wont be getting jobs that americans want, need and would be willing to do??? probably not..just go to any new subdivision being developed and see who's doing the framing, brick laying, pouring concrete and the interior drywall work and you will see what i mean...oh! i guess these are jobs that americans also don't want to do.....

themaninthemirror
0
Points
themaninthemirror 02/17/10 - 08:31 am
0
0
The Southern Co. wrote the

The Southern Co. wrote the song, now Obama wants to be the lead singer, and take credit for the song.

SCEagle Eye
958
Points
SCEagle Eye 02/17/10 - 08:34 am
0
0
Big government has just

Big government has just placed the tax payer on the hook again. What has happened to the fiscal conservatives in this country? Isn't there a single one left? What a waste of money when conservation and efficiency are much cheaper.

chascush
0
Points
chascush 02/17/10 - 09:01 am
0
0
Hussein sure flip-flopped on

Hussein sure flip-flopped on nuclear power. During the campaign McCain was for nuclear power and Hussein was against it.

dani
13
Points
dani 02/17/10 - 09:39 am
0
0
So Obama is claiming credit -

So Obama is claiming credit - the electorate knows. At least he is speaking up for something we conservatives have begged for.
In another note, it would be nice if the media knew a bit more about the location. I have heard it said that the location is Burke, Ga and one newsman said, in GA near the SC border. Can they hear us?

edwardc
1
Points
edwardc 02/17/10 - 09:48 am
0
0
The problem with nuclear

The problem with nuclear energy is that there is no way to get rid of the waste. Nuclear plants end up in low-income areas because people need the money to survive. They worry about the consequences later.

Reindeargirl
49
Points
Reindeargirl 02/17/10 - 11:16 am
0
0
How can the conservative

How can the conservative right, which blasts Obama for any hint of socialized health care applaud SOCIALIZED NUCLEAR ENERGY? Just more taxpayer underwriting of an extravagantly expensive energy source we don't need more of, especially considering there are so many better choices and NOBODY WANTS THE WASTE . Reprocessing is a fiscal nightmare - it too will have to be SOCIALIZED, and still creates plenty of dangerous waste, and could break the bank. Face it, nuclear was a stop gap technology and should be allowed to wither away, not be propped up AGAIN by FEDERAL MONEY. .

chipshirley
0
Points
chipshirley 02/17/10 - 12:35 pm
0
0
Limbaugh opens his show today

Limbaugh opens his show today (played on Armed Forces Radio in Afghanistan) by saying that Obama is like Hitler because they both believe in the concept of the Big Lie.

Limbaugh is reading extensively from Mein Kampf and saying repeatedly that Obama is Hitler.

This is clearly outside the confines of valid free speech.

This is shouting ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater. This is talk-bomber terrorism.

I demand the FCC put an end to this.

SCEagle Eye
958
Points
SCEagle Eye 02/17/10 - 12:45 pm
0
0
The real socialists have

The real socialists have exposed themselves. Now, we must fight back against the big government-corporate nuclear socialists that are trying to put down deeper roots in the Aiken area. We will not yield to the socialists!

SCEagle Eye
958
Points
SCEagle Eye 02/17/10 - 12:49 pm
0
0
The DOE and White House news

The DOE and White House news releases reveal they don't know jack about the Vogtle proposal. They said it was in Burke, GA. Uh, it's Burke County. The Vogtle site is across the Savannah River from South Carolina, opposite the DOE Savannah River Site nuclear complex (on purpose). This blatant ignorance about location does show that they haven't even take the time to look into the deeper issues of spiraling costs and that the reactor design licensing process is stalled due to flaws in the "shield building" over the reactor containment. What coming from Obama and DOE's Chu is all PR and spin but that can't change reality.

themaninthemirror
0
Points
themaninthemirror 02/17/10 - 01:38 pm
0
0
I am a Rush Limbaugh

I am a Rush Limbaugh listener, but I must confess, after an hour and a half of today's show, I have cut him off. I am now so depressed that I am going into the back yard and dig a bunker. After all, according to Limbaugh, we are screwed. our children are screwed, our grandchildren are screwed, our great grandchildren are screwed, our great great grandchildren, our nieces and nephews, are screwed, you get the picture. Limbaugh has definitely lost touch with the every day citizen of the United States. It is easy to spout off about everything when you have millions of dollars in the bank and millions more coming in.

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