NRC approves Vogtle reactors

Construction will pick up speed

Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012 12:42 PM
Last updated Friday, Feb. 10, 2012 1:28 AM
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Construction of two reactors at Plant Vogtle will accelerate now that federal approval is in hand, executives from Georgia Power and Southern Co. said shortly after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission agreed to the plan Thursday.

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Workers at Plant Vogtle assemble the steel bottom of the containment vessel for unit 3. After receiving federal approval, construction will accelerate.  CHRIS THELEN/FILE
Workers at Plant Vogtle assemble the steel bottom of the containment vessel for unit 3. After receiving federal approval, construction will accelerate.

Southern Co. CEO Tom Fanning discusses approval of the reactor:

Southern Co. CEO Tom Fanning discusses the need for nuclear energy:

A divided NRC approved the first-ever combined operating license that authorizes both construction and operation of two reactors at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle south of Augusta.

“Now you will see structure coming out of the ground,” said Tom Fanning, Southern’s CEO, at a news conference in Atlanta.

A crane is already in place for installation of the first permanent components and reinforcing steel is on hand to go into concrete structures at the plant near Waynesboro. The companies have been earthmoving for years to prepare the site, spending $4 billion already.

But construction of permanent structures could not begin until the NRC gave Thursday’s go-ahead.

“Now it’s time to go to work,” Georgia Power President Paul Bowers said.

It has taken the companies, and the other Georgia utilities that are minority owners of the plant, seven years to get to this point.

Asked about the possibility of lawsuits and regulatory changes adding delays to the project, Fanning swept them aside. He said the issues from the legal challenges already in the works from environmental groups have already been explored and resolved by government-oversight agencies. And changes due to new safety regulations stemming from lessons drawn from Japan’s nuclear-plant meltdown are more likely for existing U.S. plants than for the design used for Vogtle’s new reactors.

The men predicted Georgia’s economy would soon feel the benefits of the full pace of this $14 billion project that is expected to require as much as 5,000 workers on site and another 25,000 at companies around the globe where various components are built.

“This is a tremendous economic boost,” Fanning said.

Although preliminary work has been under way at the Burke County site for three years, the license granted Thursday – in a 4-1 vote with NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko dissenting – will allow construction on the first new commercial power reactors built in the U.S. in three decades.

Jaczko said his dissension stemmed from concerns that lessons learned since Japan’s Fukushima disaster might not be fully explored.

“I cannot support issuing this license as if Fukushima never happened,” he told colleagues, in a noon meeting webcast from NRC headquarters in Maryland.

Fellow commissioners, however, expressed confidence that safety recommendations made since the Japan crisis will be properly implemented.

“There is no amnesia, individually or collectively,” commissioner Kristine L. Svinicki said of the NRC’s attention to lessons learned from Fukushima.

Commissioner William D. Magwood agreed. “Plant Vogtle’s units 3 and 4 will represent a new era of nuclear safety,” he said.

The license, which could be issued within 10 days, according to NRC staffers, will lead to the construction of the first AP1000 modular reactors in the U.S., creating a workforce expected to peak at about 3,500 during the next three years, with total job creation estimated at 5,000.

The NRC certified Westinghouse’s amended AP1000 design on Dec. 30, 2011. The AP1000 is a 1,100-megawatt, electric, pressurized-water reactor that includes passive safety features that would cool the reactor after an accident without the need for electricity or human intervention.

Vogtle is the first U.S. site where the reactors will be built, but four AP1000 units have been under construction in China for more than two years.

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TParty 02/09/12 - 02:23 pm
I appreciate the concerns of

I appreciate the concerns of safety, but I think people should remember how old those reactors in Japan were. We can learn from what happened in Japan.

Riverman1 02/09/12 - 07:54 pm
ABC News said the facility

ABC News said the facility was being built south of Atlanta. Well, sort of.

countyman 02/10/12 - 04:59 am
The $14 billion Plant Vogtle

The $14 billion Plant Vogtle 5k jobs: 800 permanent, $4.8 billion 2,500-3000 jobs: 1k permanent, $1.3 billion Bridgestone 970 jobs, a little over $1 billion NSA 4k jobs, and $115 milion Rockwood Plant 80-100 jobs creates more than 10k total jobs and 5000 permanent... Over 21 billion will be invested into a metro of 570k according to
Business Journal as of January 2012..(556,877 July 2010 census)...

Lots of growth coming to the southern side of the metro.. South Augusta, Waynesboro, Hephzibah, Blythe, Keysville, and Mcbean.. Some of the million dollars homes in the city limits of Hephzibah belong to engineers at Plant Vogtle..

DuhJudge 02/10/12 - 08:06 am
I have some property that

I have some property that someone needs to redevelop so they can participate in that economic expansion. FOR SALE NOW.

rmwardsr 02/10/12 - 08:34 am
I was on one of the backroads

I was on one of the backroads inWaynesboro the other day leading to Plant Vogtle. As you round the curve and top the hill, the two existing reactors come into view, and it is an impressive sight.They were both in full operation with steam coming from both of them, it was two seperate columns until they both joined together, creating a fabulous mushroom effect in the sky. What a day to not have a camera with me!

david jennings
david jennings 02/10/12 - 08:48 am
Those were the cooling

Those were the cooling towers, they are iimpressive. You can see them from North Augusta off Bradleyville Rd.

rmwardsr 02/10/12 - 09:26 am
That's what I meant ,the

That's what I meant ,the cooling towers, but reactors was the first thing that came to mind, especially after reading this article. Thanks, David.

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