ATLANTA - Plant Vogtle owners officially notified federal regulators this week that they intend to study adding new nuclear units to the Waynesboro facility near Augusta.
Next summer, company officials plan to file an early work permit to help decide whether to turn in a licensing application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, according to an announcement released Friday by Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power, which owns a majority stake in Vogtle.
The research does not mean the group has committed to building new reactors at Vogtle. But it moves the plant ahead of two other Southern Co.-owned plants that also were being considered as sites for expanding electricity generation.
"Vogtle was originally designed for more units than it currently has, and we feel like we have the land space there that makes it a good site," Georgia Power spokesman John Sell said.
The news was welcomed in Burke County, where Plant Vogtle is the second-largest employer behind the school district. In 2004, the power plant pumped $23.3 million into the government's coffers, roughly 80 percent of the entire $29.8 million county tax digest, according to Tax Commissioner Cynthia McManus.
Burke County Administrator Merv Waldrop said the additional revenue generated by a new unit at the facility could allow the government to expand its services or roll back the tax rate on county homeowners.
"We don't know how much of (a tax) impact that would be," he said. "But we look at this as a very positive move. We're glad to see it moving along."
Preston Conner, the chief executive of Burke County-based Southern Bank & Trust, said Plant Vogtle has been the most influential employer in the county since construction began in the 1970s.
"It's going to mean a lot to the local economy," said Mr. Conner, who is also the vice chairman of the county development authority. "The wages out there are the biggest in the county."
Bolstered by support from the Bush administration to promote nuclear power, energy groups nationwide are moving toward building the nation's first new nuclear plant in decades.
Southern Co. also is a member of a consortium called NuStart Energy that is considering Savannah River Site as one of six potential locations to target for an early site permit.