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CitizenVox: Standing Up to Corporate Power

Vogtle, Georgia

Southern Company, an electric utility that serves all or parts of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida, has announced its intention to seek the permits necessary to site, construct, and operate a new nuclear reactor at its Vogtle site located near Augusta in Burke County, Georgia. The company already owns and operates two reactors at the site.

Southern Company submitted its application for an Early Site Permit (ESP) to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in August 2006. The NRC approved the ESP on August 26 2009. Southern filed an application for a Combined Operating License (COL) in March 2008, it was approved on February 9 2012.

To view the ESP application, click here.

To view the COL application, click here.

Now that all major permits and licenses have been granted, construction is underway, and the first reactor could be operational in 2016, the second by 2017. However, there are indications that the project is currently as much as eight months behind schedule due to construction problems.

A conditional US government loan guarantee to cover 80 percent of the project’s estimated $14 billion price tag – $8.32 billion, was issued in February 2010. The final guarantee could be approved by July 2012. The current schedule delays are projected to increase costs by as much as $900 million. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) filed several FOIA requests for documents relating to the loan guarantees and had to take legal action to obtain all the documents requested in a process that took over two years. These documents, which were finally released in March 2012, reveal that Southern Company had secured below-market rates on its guaranteed loans and that the loan guarantee program’s fee structure for applying for the guarantees is based on default risk assessments that are far too optimistic; resulting in very low fees for Southern Company and their partners.

In addition, SACE is currently challenging the COL in court, alleging that the NRC has failed to take into account modifications that should be considered in light of the Fukushima disaster. They are joined in their legal actions by 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, Nuclear Watch South, and Friends of the Earth.

Southern Company is a member of the NuStart Energy Development consortium, which is applying for COLs at the Grand Gulf site in Port Gibson, Mississippi, where Entergy is seeking an Early Site Permit to environmentally qualify the site for a new nuclear reactor, and at the Bellefonte site in Alabama, owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

If you would like to get involved in stopping the construction of new nuclear plants in Georgia, please e-mail us and let us know how you’d like to help. We can provide you with information and strategic advice.

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