Yesterday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved plans for the first nuclear plants in the U.S. in over three decades, the first since the incident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979. The reported vote was 4-1, with news media indicating that NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko cast the dissenting vote. Two Westinghouse AP1000 1,100 Megawatt reactors were approved for the Southern Company’s Vogtle plant in Georgia. The reactors are of a standardized design approved by the NRC in 2011. The estimated cost is US$14B. As an incentive, the Obama administration is offering US$8.3B in loan guarantees.
The Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in March 2011 caused many countries to re-evaluate their energy policies. With this action, the U.S. is taking a small step toward nuclear expansion. IEEE-USA, the unit of IEEE that addresses U.S. technology policy, has been an advocate for careful growth of nuclear generation in the U.S., arguing that nuclear plants are “the largest capacity power generation sources that emit negligible greenhouse gases.”
IEEE-USA, February 2011, “National Energy Policy Recommendations”
Reuters, 9 February 2012 “NRC approves first new nuclear plant in a generation”
Associated Press, 10 February 2012, “NRC approves first nuclear plant in three decades”
Bloomberg, 10 February 2012, “Southern’s `Monumental Accomplishment’ Tempered By Fukushima”