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First US Nuclear Units in 30 Years Get Green Light

Southern Company (NYSE:SO) subsidiary Georgia Power received permission on Thursday (December 21) to complete the US’ first new nuclear units in 30 years. 

According to a press release, the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) has given the company unanimous approval to finish work on Vogtle 3 and 4, which are located near Waynesboro.

The reactors are co-owned by Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities. Unit 3 is expected to come online in November 2021, with Unit 4 following in November 2022. They are the only nuclear units under construction in the US, and are expected to power about 500,000 homes and businesses.

“The decision to complete Vogtle 3 & 4 is important for Georgia’s energy future and the United States,” said Paul Bowers, Georgia Power’s chairman, president and CEO. He added, “the Vogtle expansion is key to ensuring that our state has affordable and reliable energy today that will support economic growth now and for generations to come.” 

US advocates of nuclear power agree — according to the New York Times, many view the Georgia PSC’s green light for Vogtle 3 and 4 as a “lifeline for the nuclear industry.” While nuclear energy provides one-fifth of the country’s electricity, reactor building has stagnated in recent decades, “in part because of soaring construction costs and competition from cheaper natural gas and renewable energy.”

But not everyone is convinced moving forward with the nuclear units is a good idea. Georgia Power received approval to build the reactors back in 2009, and since then has faced numerous hurdles. Originally scheduled to come online in 2016 and 2017, the reactors were delayed by construction problems, and by this year’s bankruptcy of lead contractor Westinghouse. Costs have ballooned from $14 billion to potentially over $23 billion.

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