Saturday, February 11, 2012

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved Thursday, in a four to one vote, two new nuclear reactors at Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle in Burke County, Georgia. This is the first time a new reactor has been approved since 1978, the year before the Three Mile Island accident.

The only vote against the plant came from NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko. In a statement, he said “Right now we know there are things that need to be fixed, things that need to be changed, or at least things that need to be analyzed. For us to issue this license, and say ‘we’ll deal with them later,’ to me is kind of putting the cart before the horse.”

The CEO of Southern Company, Thomas Fanning, said the approval was a “monumental accomplishment.” In a conference call after the approval, he told reporters, “Anything that we learn from Fukushima, I assure you we will bring to bear”, referring to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. In an interview, he also said regulatory oversight “has been thorough, it has been thoughtful and it is complete.”

Environmental groups may bring a case to federal court in order to stop the completion of the new reactors. Wikinews contacted two environmental organizations, Greenpeace and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Greenpeace recommended a post about the approval on their staff blog, which said “Rather than expand the use of this dangerous and stupidly expensive technology, our government should stop subsidizing nuclear corporations’ bad investments and instead develop plans to phase out nuclear power and better secure the deadly radioactive wastes.” The Union of Concerned Scientists has yet to comment.

The new units are to be Westinghouse Electric AP1000 reactors. They would each have a net generating capacity of 1117MW. The construction cost is expected to be roughly USD14 billion (EUR10.6b, JPY1.1 trillion), and the reactors may be operational by 2017.