If you’re wondering, that was carbon dioxide-free white smoke coming from the Georgia Public Service Commission recently, which means the agency approved moving forward with what will be the U.S.’s first new commercial nuclear reactors in years at nearby Plant Vogtle.
The unanimous decision made national headlines, signaling its importance to the nation’s energy future and psyche. Just as importantly, it sent billows of relief cascading throughout the region, which would’ve taken an economic hit of hundreds of millions of dollars if the reactors had been abandoned.
Construction and retail jobs, as well as real estate rentals and more, were all in breathless limbo awaiting the PSC’s decision – which followed ominous cost overruns, the bankruptcy of the general contractor and the shuttering this summer of a similar project at V.C. Summer Plant near Jenkinsville, S.C.
As part of the deal, Georgia Power customers will receive $75 rebates, and their fees will be reduced by $1.7 billion going forward.
As relieved as the region is, though, the pressure is only building to complete the two new reactors, which would join two current ones at the site. The utilities involved, as well as the companies building the reactors, must prove themselves worthy of the increased costs, extra time allotted and the enormous trust being placed in their hands.
The region is counting on it, and the nation is watching.