US funds nuclear reactors

Atlanta-based Southern Company has confirmed that its Georgia Power subsidiary has been offered a conditional commitment for loan guarantees from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to construct two new nuclear power units – the first in the US for more than 30 years.

The new units will be located at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, Georgia, where the company already owns and operates two nuclear units. The loan guarantees would apply to future borrowings related to the construction of Vogtle units 3 and 4.

The addition of units 3 and 4 is expected to produce approximately 3,500 jobs during construction and an additional 800 permanent jobs once the units begin operation.

Georgia Power has 90 days to accept the conditional commitment, including obtaining any necessary regulatory approvals. The company received an early site permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for the two additional units in 2009, and preliminary site work has begun.

Along with Georgia Power’s portion of the two 1,100MW reactors, the remaining ownership is split among Oglethorpe Power Corporation, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG Power) and Dalton Utilities.

Total cost of the new units is currently projected to be approximately $14bn (£8.9bn). Georgia Power’s share is currently projected at approximately $6.1bn, which includes approximately $1.7bn of financing costs to be collected during construction.

Units 3 and 4 are expected to begin commercial operation in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Southern Nuclear, a subsidiary of Southern Company, will oversee the construction as well as operate the two new units for Georgia Power and the other owners. Southern Nuclear currently operates Plant Vogtle’s two existing nuclear power units as well as Georgia Power’s Plant Hatch nuclear facility near Baxley, Georgia, and Alabama Power’s Plant Farley nuclear facility near Dothan, Alabama.

Westinghouse and its consortium team member The Shaw Group are under contract to provide two Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear power plants at Southern’s Vogtle site. The consortium is also building four AP1000s in China and has been selected to provide no less than 12 additional AP1000s elsewhere in the US.