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Nuclear Renaissance: Southern Co. Gains Key DOE Backing

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A news release from Southern Co., “Southern Company Receives DOE Support for Nation’s First Nuclear Units in 30 Years.” Excerpt:

ATLANTA, Feb. 16 — Southern Company today announced that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has offered its subsidiary Georgia Power a conditional commitment for loan guarantees for the construction of the nation’s first nuclear power units in more than 30 years, a move designed to help spur a renaissance in America’s nuclear industry.

“We are honored by the administration’s confidence in our ability to build the nation’s first new nuclear power plant in more than three decades,” said Southern Company CEO David Ratcliffe, following an event at which President Obama and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced the award. “It’s an important endorsement in the role nuclear power must play in diversifying our nation’s energy mix and helping to curb greenhouse gas emissions.”

President Obama and Secretary Chu announced the commitment for the loan guarantees at a news conference held at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 26 in Lanham, Md.  Ratcliffe was joined at the event by Georgia Power CEO Mike Garrett, Southern Company COO Tom Fanning, Southern Nuclear CEO Jim Miller and Southern Company Executive Vice President Chris Womack.

President Obama’s remarks announcing the loan guarantees today in Lanham, Md.

[Through] the Department of Energy and Secretary Chu’s leadership, we are announcing roughly $8 billion in loan guarantees to break ground on the first new nuclear plant in our country in three decades — the first new nuclear power plant in nearly three decades.  (Applause.)

It’s a plant that will create thousands of construction jobs in the next few years, and some 800 permanent jobs — well-paying permanent jobs — in the years to come.  And this is only the beginning.  My budget proposes tripling the loan guarantees we provide to help finance safe, clean nuclear facilities -– and we’ll continue to provide financing for clean energy projects here in Maryland and across America.

Department of Energy news release, “Obama Administration Announces Loan Guarantees to Construct New Nuclear Power Reactors in Georgia

UPDATE (5:10 p.m.): From Clean Skies News, video of the President’s remarks.

If You Want to Talk Jobs, Let’s Talk Nuclear Power

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President Obama is expected to announce today federal loan guarantees under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 for construction of two new reactor units at Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle in Burke, Ga., south of Augusta.

From The Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Obama to announce Georgia nuke loan guarantees today“:

An Obama official … confirmed the news to the AJC on Monday, saying the president would travel to Lanham, Md., today, where he will tour a training center that includes applications for clean energy and low-carbon technologies, including the construction of nuclear plants. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu will join the president on the tour.

AP and UPI report that the President’s trip is to a jobs training center housed at an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 26 and the National Electrical Contractors Association site.

The Senate is expected to take up a “jobs bill” when it returns from the Presidents Day recess next week. If you’re talking jobs, policies that support nuclear power are a good way to go. From Southern Company’s website on the Plant Vogtle project:

Economic Impacts

  • Up to $14 billion of investment in the state of Georgia
  • 3,500 quality jobs during construction
  • 800 high-paying jobs for the life of the plant
  • Tax dollars to the local communities and the state over the expected 60-year life

Southern has much good information at its website, the section, “Building New Plants.”

A Major Step Forward for U.S. Nuclear Power

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Bloomberg, “Obama Said Set to Give Southern Co. Nuclear-Loan Aid

Feb. 13 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama will announce Feb. 16 that Southern Co. will get a federal loan guarantee to build two nuclear reactors in Georgia, the first support awarded under a five-year-old law, an administration official said…[snip]

The financial commitment will be used to add two 1,150-megawatt reactors to Southern’s two-unit site south of Augusta, Georgia.

Bloomberg further reports that the Department of Energy has authority to award $18.5 billion in loan guarantees, “and the administration put Atlanta-based Southern at the top of a short list that also included Constellation Energy Group Inc., NRG Energy Inc. and Scana Corp.” More …

In his Jan. 27 State of the Union address, President Obama declared, “[To] create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives.  And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.” The President’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget called for tripling federal loan guarantees for the construction of new nuclear plants to $54.5 billion. From the OMB’s fact sheet:

Develop the Market for Clean Energy Technologies. The Budget substantially expands support for construction of new nuclear power plants by increasing the Department of Energy loan guarantees authority for such projects by $36 billion, to a total of $54.5 billion, and provides credit subsidy funding of $500 million to support $3 to $5 billion of loan guarantees for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.  The loan guarantee program will encourage new nuclear facilities and a range of renewable energy projects that reduce greenhouse gases and pollutants, while simultaneously creating jobs and contributing to long-term economic growth.

 UPDATE (1:40 p.m.): The two new units are planned for Plant Vogtle. According to Southern’s fact sheet, the company has chosen the light-water Westinghouse AP1000 technology for the proposed units.  More than 40 new nuclear plants are under construction in 12 countries around the world — almost all using light-water reactor technology.