If approved, this will the US’ first new nuclear reactor not only since the Fukushima blowout but also since the Three Mile meltdown in 1979.
And Southern Company has been waiting since March 2008, when it first submitted an application for a combined operating license (COL) to build two new reactors–Vogtle Units 3 and 4–at its Vogtle nuclear plant, located near Waynesboro, Georgia. The COL would allow Southern Company to both construct and move directly into operating the reactors.
A Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff review of the Southern Company application was issued in August and gave the power company a green light to move forward with construction, noting it had met all safety and environmental standards for the new reactors. All that’s left for construction to begin is for NRC commissioners to approve the staff review. The two-day hearing began yesterday and is still underway.
“We can see the COL finish line from here,” Southern Company spokesperson Steve Higginbottom told Breaking Energy. He called the hearing the “final steps” towards approval and eventual construction.
Though Fukushima has heightened awareness of some of the potential drawbacks of nuclear power, Higginbottom said he did not anticipate it would impact the NRC’s decision. He said the company is working with the NRC, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) and other relevant authorities to ensure that all lesson from Fukushima are learned and the plants follow the latest safety protocol.
“We anticipate having the COL around the end of this year,” Higginbottom said.
If all goes as planned, Southern Company hopes to bring Unit 3 online in 2016 and Unit 4 online in 2017.
Photo Caption: Southern Company at the NRC hearings, September 27, 2011.