Friday, February 10, 2012

NRC Approves Construction of New Nuclear Power Reactors

It is the first in more then three decades and long overdue.

"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday approved a construction and operating license for new nuclear power reactors for the first time since 1978, giving Southern Co. the green light to build two new units at its existing Vogtle site in Georgia.

The commission voted 4-1 in favor, with NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko casting the sole vote against granting the license. Jaczko said later that he wanted binding assurances that the new reactors would be modified to meet recommendations made by the agency’s task force on the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant last year.
Southern, which filed its license application in March 2008, said it expects the project to cost about $14 billion. It will use Toshiba’s AP1000 reactors, the design of which the NRC certified in December, and it hopes to bring them online in 2016 and 2017.

The new reactors, however, are no longer seen as the start of what the industry once predicted would be a nuclear renaissance. Virtually all of the 31 plants that had been proposed by 2009 have been shelved as a result of cheap natural gas, high construction costs, weak electricity demand and safety concerns following the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan.

Ten anti-nuclear groups have vowed to file suit against the NRC if it approves the license as expected. The groups said they would argue that the agency broke the law by failing to consider the full lessons of the Fukushima disaster, in which a string of four reactors were badly damaged in an earthquake and tsunami.

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