Georgia’s Glowing Ambitions Backed 4-1 By Nuclear Regulatory Commission

by | Feb 11, 2012

Trade magazine Power Engineering is celebrating the news that a new nuclear power plant will be built 26 miles southeast of Augusta, Georgia.

It’s official: Georgia will be the site of the nation’s first new nuclear reactors in more than 30 years.

The Washington Post, on the other hand, brings another, more balanced point of view to the news.

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.

The Vogtle project “survives only because Georgia regulators have agreed to make the customers pay for it regardless of the fact that its power is likely to be three times as expensive as other realistic combinations of alternatives,” said Peter Bradford, a former NRC commissioner and critic of many nuclear projects.

Jim Riccio, a spokesman for Greenpeace, said taxpayers were helping “to build new nuclear reactors that corporations would never risk building themselves.”

The agency’s vote is a “monumental accomplishment,” Thomas Fanning, Southern’s chairman and chief executive officer, said. “Anything that we learn from Fukushima, I assure you we will bring to bear,” Fanning told reporters.

The Vogtle site is already home to two existing nuclear reactors owned by Southern that began commercial operations in the late 1980s. The area of land adjacent to the Savannah River is also home to a Dept. of Energy managed nuclear site called Savannah River Site, which consolidates and stores nuclear materials.

I certainly wouldn’t want to be eat any fish or drink any water (treated or not) from said river, which of course flows toward the city of Savannah and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.

Politically, this would be an outrage if a Republican administration was pushing it through. Does Obama get a hall pass on this? I don’t see why.

Thankfully, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Friends of the Earth, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Center for a Sustainable Coast, Citizens Allied for Safe Energy, Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions, North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, Nuclear Information and Resource Service and Nuclear Watch South are fighting the decision. The environmental groups are asking federal judges to require the NRC to prepare a new environmental impact statement for the proposed reactors.