Tue., August 18, 2009 2:13pm (EDT)

Federal Government May Decide on Permit for Nuclear Reactors Soon
By Mary Ellen Cheatham
Updated: 5 years ago

WAYNESBORO, Ga.  —  
Plant Vogtle, near Waynesboro, is closer to getting two new nuclear reactors. (photo courtesy U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission)
Plant Vogtle, near Waynesboro, is closer to getting two new nuclear reactors. (photo courtesy U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission)
A decision on whether work can begin on two new nuclear reactors in Waynesboro is expected within weeks.

The U.S. Atomic Safety and Licensing Board has issued a decision that clears the way for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to approve an early site permit for the new reactors. A review by the board found that safety and environmental issues are sufficient to issue the permit.

It's a crucial development in the process, one of the most significant decisions on the reactors so far. The NRC may decide on the permit in about two weeks, according to a spokesman with that agency.

The permit, which basically deems the site suitable for construction, would be among the first issued for new nuclear reactors in the U.S. in decades. A limited work authorization may also be granted soon, allowing employees to do some preliminary work at the site.

The board is still reviewing Plant Vogtle's application for a combined construction and operating license, which would allow for full construction to begin.

Plant Vogtle is also at the center of a controversial rate increase approved by the Georgia legislature for Georgia Power ratepayers, which will help pay for construction of the reactors. Georgia Power is a majority owner of the plant.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, an environmental group that has opposed the reactors, plans to appeal the decision.