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Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 11:00am

Regulators Near Vogtle Approval

Federal nuclear regulators are set to vote Thursday on approving construction of two new reactors at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission last year approved the design Southern Company is using to add two new reactors at its east Georgia facility. Now the commission is set to give its final OK for construction and operation.

Southern Company is spending $14 billion along with several partners to expand Plant Vogtle to accommodate Georgia’s projected growth and growing power needs.

“With the anticipated population increase in the super-southeast, when we looked at all the data, the planning department looked at all the data, nuclear was the best option for the customer,” said Cheri Collins, general manager and nuclear liaison with Southern Nuclear Operating Co.

Consumer and environmental groups fighting the plant’s expansion said it is clear regulators are going to sign off. But they said say they will continue to work against the project. They said it is too costly and raises safety concerns in light of the disaster at a Japan nuclear plant last year.

“We very much expect, unfortunately, that there are going to be cost overruns and there are going to be delays and delays result in cost increases,” said Sara Barczak, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s high risk energy director.

The original reactors at Vogtle did go hundred of millions of dollars over budget when they were built in the 1980s. Southern Company has argued standardized designs and an improved licensing process make costs more certain now.

Customers are already paying a surcharge to fund the Vogtle construction.

The two new units are scheduled to come online in 2016 and 2017.

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