In a ruling filed late Wednesday, the three-judge panel declined to stay the effectiveness of the combined operating license issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in February.
That license, the first of its kind, formally authorized both the construction and operation of the first new nuclear power reactors built in the U.S. in almost three decades. A second license has since been issued for SCANA Corp.’s V.C. Summer nuclear station in South Carolina.
The motion to halt construction was filed by five groups, including Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, seeking a “housekeeping stay” to allow more time to review the NRC’s decision to license the $14 billion Vogtle expansion.
The groups contend more work is needed to address concerns that have emerged since Japan’s Fukushima disaster, and that continuing construction without adequate planning and oversight could result in costly changes that would affect Georgia ratepayers.
The owners of the project are pleased with the ruling, said Southern Co. spokesman Jeff Wilson, who reiterated the company’s position that the license approval was based on a proper and thorough review of issues related to accidents, earthquakes, floods and tsunamis.
“An extended stay would have increased costs for the project, directly impacting Georgia Power customers, and would have put thousands of jobs at risk,” he said.
Work at the Burke County site is continuing, he said, and the units are scheduled to go online in 2016 and 2017.