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Obama Administration Announces $8.33B in Loan Guarantees for New Nuclear Power Reactors in Georgia; First New US Nuclear Power Plant Project in Nearly 3 Decades

President Obama announced that the Department of Energy has offered conditional commitments for a total of $8.33 billion in loan guarantees for the construction and operation of two new nuclear reactors at a plant in Burke, Georgia. The project is scheduled to be the first US nuclear power plant to break ground in nearly three decades.

The two new 1,100 megawatt Westinghouse AP1000 (Advanced Passive 1000) nuclear reactors (earlier post) at the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant—Vogtle units 3 and 4—will supplement the two existing reactor units at the facility. As one part of the conditional loan guarantee deal, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) must determine if the AP1000 fulfills the regulatory requirements for a construction and operating license.

The AP1000 is a 1,117 to 1,154 MWe pressurized water reactor (PWR) nuclear power plant that is an extension of the older AP600 design. (It is considered a Generation III Advanced Light Water Reactor.) It is modular in design, thereby promoting ready standardization and high construction quality; economical to construct and maintain (less concrete and steel and fewer components and systems mean there is less to install, inspect and maintain); and designed to promote ease of operation.

To meet our growing energy needs and prevent the worst consequences of climate change, we need to increase our supply of nuclear power and today’s announcement helps to move us down that path. But energy leaders and experts recognize that as long as producing carbon pollution carries no cost, traditional plants that use fossil fuels will be more cost-effective than plants that use nuclear fuel. That is why we need comprehensive energy and climate legislation to create a system of incentives to make clean energy profitable. What I hope this announcement underscores is both our commitment to meeting the energy challenge—and our willingness to look at this challenge not as a partisan issue, but as a matter far more important than politics.

—President Obama

Ownership of the two reactors is split among Georgia Power Company (GPC), the largest subsidiary of Southern Company, one of the US’ largest generators of electricity; 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 $14 billion.

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, Ga., and Alabama Power’s Plant Farley nuclear facility near Dothan, Ala.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorized DOE to issue loan guarantees for projects that avoid, reduce, or sequester air pollutants or anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and employ new or significantly-improved technologies as compared to technologies in service in the United States at the time the guarantee is issued. These are the first conditional commitments for loan guarantees to be offered by DOE for a nuclear power facility since enactment of the 2005 law. The Department’s Loan Programs Office administers the loan guarantee program.

The nuclear facility is eligible for loan guarantees because it achieves substantial environmental benefits by reducing greenhouse gases and other pollutants. In addition, the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor has incorporated numerous innovations resulting in significant operational, safety, and cost enhancements.

This is the fifth time that DOE has offered conditional commitments for a loan guarantee under The Energy Policy Act of 2005. Other recipients of commitments for loan guarantees for innovative technology energy projects include Solyndra, Inc., a manufacturer of cylindrical solar photovoltaic panels; Nordic Windpower, USA, a maker of two-blade, one megawatt wind turbines; Beacon Power, an energy storage company; and Red River Environmental Products, an activated carbon manufacturing plant.

Georgia’s need for electricity is growing and is expected to increase by approximately 30% over the next 15 years. Compared to a similar sized coal plant, the new Vogtle units will avoid significant greenhouse gas emissions each year: 16 million tons of carbon dioxide, 3,900 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 5,500 tons of sulfur dioxide.


Account Deleted

They will never be built. To quote NYTimes “The builders hope to have a license to build and run the plant by the end of next year, under a revised process that is supposed to eliminate problems that caused huge cost overruns in the 1970s and 1980s, when regulatory changes during construction added billions to costs. About 100 reactors were abandoned during construction in that era.” 1)

They might start construction by the end of next year. That is two years and then you need to add the 8 years it takes to build them and it may be ready in 10 years from now or 2020. This is plenty of time to sue to stop this madness and to stage large scale protests at the construction site.

The reactors are made in Japan so very few jobs for Americans in this project. In 2009 the global wind power industry erected 37.5 GW of wind power capacity.2) This industry has hitherto grown at 30% per year so if that continues it can do 400GW in 2018 alone or four times the total capacity for all nuclear ever installed in the US. 1000 GW of wind power could supply 50% of all US electricity needs or be enough to close down all coal power plants in the US.



Is this today's version of "We're going to Mars"?


After over fifty years of commercial research and operation, how does such a powerful technology remain uneconomical?

In any case, the Republicans are bribed, so hopefully they will keep their end and stop gridlocking majority legislation.


$8.33 billion in loan guarantees. That's a lot of money.
And that's just for 2 reactors?
So that's over $4 billion for one? No wonder none have been built in 30 yrs.


I don't see why everyone hates nuclear. The risks are quite overblown, and it provides large-scale baseload power that wind and solar can not. It does all this while lowering carbon emissions. Part of the reason nuclear isn't economical in the United States is because Jimmy Carter decided to kill the nuclear industry. As a country, we need wind.. we need solar.. we need nuclear. The more electricity we produce, the more quickly we can stop using so much oil.


It would be supremely disingenuous for Congress to let these projects languish further. The US needs the low carbon energy. Considering that China is building 22 new reactors and hundreds of new dirty coal fired plants - it seems reasonable for the US to return to an energy source that other nations have proved to be viable.

While we support the use of alternatives, wind has been shown to be cost ineffective when the economics of intermittent operation are considered. It may improve and there will be a wind industry - it is however too intermittent for an industrial nation re rely upon. Emphasis should now be placed on mitigating waste - recycling waste and storing it permanently.

Regardless of where a reactor is designed - it will be constructed and operated by Americans - which is why the announcement was made at the IBEW facility in MD.

"The loan guarantees will help create 3,500 on-site construction jobs and 850 permanent operations jobs, administration officials claimed. The reactors will help provide power to over 550,000 homes and 1.4 million people, it said.


Why would there be protests at the plant site?

Between Vogtle and Hatch, we've had nuclear power here in Georgia for decades with no problems. I suppose someone could bus some hippies in to make a (literal) stink, but I think you'll discover that the locals will support clean, reliable power.


I do not see the "clean" aspect when it generates lethal waste that lasts for 1000s of years. When they find a way to deal with that, then we can talk.


Nuclear waste is a political problem, not a technical one. Yucca Mountain was a perfectly workable solution, but political pressures led to it being cancelled. Of course, that cancellation is itself now used as a justification for opposing nuclear power.

The coal industry must be laughing its collective ass off.


They will be built only if the Feds guarantee 100% of the loans -- then the lenders have no risk and will loan 100% of the cost so the "investors" have no risk -- only the American taxpayers.
I don't hate nuclear. The cost does not justify the risk -- a project 10 to 15 years out with huge capital outlay while other technologies (wind and solar) have falling prices. You can put up your money if you like.

Baby Fishmouth

Matthew, you ignorant slut!

I do not think the citizens in Nevada think Yucca is a workable solution. You should check out and get some Amory in your life. In a nutshell, he has proven that the money we are going to pony up for "nukuler" would be more effective elsewhere like solar, wind, efficiency, smart meters etc. If Barry has to buy a few Republican votes in the Senate, it might as well be nuclear rather than offshore drilling or "clean coal". In 10 years this project will be dead and Senator Lindsey Graham will have been defeated by a tea bagger.

Stan Peterson

The certainty that it will never happen astounds me.

The rules of the game, as I practiced them, to delay bad nuclear plants, are no longer viable. Chanting mobs of know-nothing twits, never delayed a single plant. It was principled critics, raising valid questions, tying them up in legal wrangling in court for months and years on end, that did so.

If you oppose these plants, you have approximately 9 months to stop the approval of AP-1000 update license. After that its outlawed. Only after that approval, will actual groundbreaking occur. Stopping the approval for the design update won't stop it either. In the case of the AP-1000 it is already a licensed and approved standard design. Westinghouse is merely seeking an approval for incorporating improvements; if there is no approval for the improvements, the older, approved standard design will be constructed.

Whereas it was not the situation in the old days. There is simply no longer any legal standing to bring suit, against a standard design, and obtain an injunction on construction while the merits are argued, beyond the next 9 months, after which the NRC approval review cycle will be completed.

You would have to demonstrate to the NRC engineers, and not some befuddled judge, that your objection merits first consideration, and then prove it to them, before a halt in construction can happen.

Those are the changed rules of the game. You have to make your case and win to the NRC, before any modification of the construction and initial operation schedule can happen. Since the AP-1000 standard design has 8 plants that are near completion overseas, I doubt anyone can build such a case.

As far as your date for completion is concerned, once again its not the days of old. Fixed price, Fixed time contracts with 4 year completion from ground breaking to initial operation are the new rules of the game.

If they break ground in 2011, as the first in the wave of coming nuclear plants, the Vogtle plants will be pouring electricity into the grid in 2015.

In the interval since the last US plant was ordered, these new plant designs have been perfected. They are now what they should have been, and we wanted them to be back when.

As regards waste, technology has advanced and transmutation methods, so-called actinide burning technology developed, and is being used by the French. There is no reason anymore to worry about long lived radioactive waste. Reprocessing and Actinide Burning technology make the smaller waste repository safe and innocuous in less than 300 years.



I hope you don't mind that I suspend my belief until those reactors open on time and on budget. We'll see in 7 years whether the nuclear industry is worth its salt.

Stan Peterson

I am quite willing to allow your suspension of belief. I, like Patrick Moore, founder of Greenpeace, have kept out eyes open, and recognize the differences. The nuclear LWR 'perfected' plants of today are far from the under-engineered, untested, designs of that era, htta we so rightly criticized.

Ironically, Three Mile Island that still proved safe, was the missing test-to-destruction test that we critics all wanted to see. Reliability and dependability has developed, in situ, over 20 years or so of operations.

Just because I support the 'perfected' LWR designs of today, does not mean I want the next generation of Fission nukes to be developed. Those run too close to the edge, and are just too dangerous. The coming Fusion power plants will be the proper successors; and simultaneously provide the special incinerators to complete 'Actinide Burning'.

They will transmute the last, well under half of 1% of the remaining Transuranics, the radioactive elements that endure for thousands of years. Thus completely solving the radioactive waste problem.

It has been most fortuitous that the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming, CAGW, has proven to be a wild exaggeration; and exposed for all to see. It is just a politically attractive, pseudo-religious hoax. Just when it was on the verge of legislated self-destruction for civilization.

Energy is the ultimate prize and measure of a civilization. Now that its development with appropriate safeguards, can proceed unimpeded, I see a rosy future for all Mankind, and us in particular.


With $8.33 billion one can finance 6 GW of wind power, which will produce about the same amount of energy.
With the difference that those 6 GW wind power will produce energy by 2011 already, won't depend on uranium imports, won't require expensive waste disposal, won't deal with decommissioning costs in the range of $1 billion per GW and won't require any cooling water.

Of course, if it was about reducing CO2-emissions, it would be even more effective, if the US invested $8.33 billion in efficiency measures (e.g. home insulation, efficient appliances, lighting systems, solar hot water etc.).
This does even produce a very good return on investment:


I'd be careful touting the awesomeness of government investment in energy-efficiency programs:


It would probably be better if the government simply reduced taxes on work and increased taxes on energy, if it wanted to promote private investments in energy efficiency and thus reduce CO2 emissions.

Btw, European countries have about the same living standard as the US and require almost 50% less energy/electricity per capita.


It's a Communist Plot by Barry.
This will succeed where Fluoridation failed.


I am curious as to why Stan believes that CAGW has been shown to be a hoax. Overnight lows in Minneapolis in January are 9 degrees warmer than 40 years ago (National Weather Service, 1960-1967 versus 2000-2007). I have yet to hear an explanation of this other than a build up of GHG's. I did my investigation because my premise was that people who live in warm places wonder what the fuss is, summer's have not changed much. July highs are 1 degree warmer, certainly not enough to notice. July overnight lows are 4 degrees warmer, but who notices overnight lows in the summer? January highs are 6 degrees warmer. Winters are drastically different. I also had to make sure that my memory was not playing tricks with me.


I'm particularly curious why someone who believes artificial global warming is a hoax wants new nuclear power plants. If CO2 emissions were irrelevant, new coal power plants would be a better choice since they are cheaper and run on US fuel (do not require uranium imports either).

Stan Peterson

Perhaps y'all don't understand what those guarantees really mean. Only if the plant is abandoned uncompleted do they come into effect. Vogtle is being financed with private money, certainly loosened up by the government guarantees.

Its nothing new either, although the $54 billion sum is bigger, and attributable to Obama. But the Bush Administration's Energy Bill of 2005 offered $11 billion in guarantees to the the first three Utilities to bite the bullet and suffer the slings and possible delays in the first few plants, of restarting the domestic nuclear power industry, and leading the Nuclear Renaissance.

It was that Energy Law of 2005 that changed the legal ground rules, defined the appropriate time to object, and to whom, and outlawed legal "monkey wrenching" for 'Standard' pre-approved designs.

The day it passed, there started a flood of Utilities investigating building nuclear plants once again. Within 18 months some 25 proposals for plants were seeking preliminary authorizations for acquiring land, obtaining site approvals, and starting EIS statements. etc.

That pipeline is up to some 33 Plants right now, that have spent tens of millions to get all the paperwork approvals from stockholders, local, municipal, county, and state governments and PUCs, while arranging financing, and negotiating deals with the Plant builders.

That preliminary work is just about done or will be completed, in the next year or so. As will the NRC design approvals for Westinghouse, GE and Areva "Standard" designs. The NRC engineers have been pouring over the GEN III+ designs for 4-5 years now before approvals are granted.

If the time to construct them is near where planned, and fixed price/fixed time contracts enforce it, while overseas experience already confirm it can be done, the Utilities can't lose.

Nuclear was cheaper than old coal, by the calculations of the only accountants who count; the ones who work for the Utilities spending their own money. It was true then and even more true today. In the 1960s and 1970s nuclear was cheaper when the plants were started back then, Obstruction delayed and drove up costs, ruinously, but you can't do that anymore.

More important, nor is there any reason to even try to do so now.



legislated self-destruction for civilization

I have to hand it to you: you are the master of unfounded alarmism!

Kit P

“I do not see the "clean" aspect when it generates lethal waste that lasts for 1000s of years. When they find a way to deal with that, then we can talk.”

There must be more carbon monoxide in the air in California than we have been told. Maybe SJC's mother let him sucking on batteries to keep him out of her stash. Second generation hippie burning out his brain on recreational too stoned to think for himself. Does your crack dealer follow regulations on proper disposal of hazardous material?

Get a clue SJC, no not stand next to the spent fuel, do not play in traffic. We do have a way to deal with spent fuel. It is called a geological repository.

Kit P

“I do not see the "clean" aspect when it generates lethal waste that lasts for 1000s of years. When they find a way to deal with that, then we can talk.”

There must be more carbon monoxide in the air in California than we have been told. Maybe SJC's mother let him sucking on batteries to keep him out of her stash. Second generation hippie burning out his brain on recreational too stoned to think for himself. Does your crack dealer follow regulations on proper disposal of hazardous material?

Get a clue SJC, no not stand next to the spent fuel, do not play in traffic. We do have a way to deal with spent fuel. It is called a geological repository.


Kit P-

Don't forget fuel reprocessing, which is utilized in Europe but illegal in the US.

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