Thu., February 9, 2012 4:54pm (EST)

Groups Plan To Sue Over Nuclear Vote
By Orlando Montoya
Updated: 2 years ago

SAVANNAH, Ga.  —  
Reactors at Plant Vogtle near Augusta are the first to receive a new construction permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in three decades.  (photo Southern Company)
Reactors at Plant Vogtle near Augusta are the first to receive a new construction permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in three decades. (photo Southern Company)
Federal regulators have approved construction of the nation's first nuclear power plant in a generation.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's decision paves the way for a Georgia company to build two reactors.

Atlanta-based Southern Company plans to have the reactors online in four years.

Plant Vogtle in eastern Georgia is expected to supply power to 500,000 Georgia homes.

Southern Company President and CEO Tom Fanning hailed the decision as a forward-thinking move.

"Implementing a sensible national energy policy is a national priority for America," Fanning says. "Today we celebrate an achievement certainly for the Southern Company, but more importantly, for our customers and our nation."

Georgia regulators made it possible for Southern Company to charge customers fees to pay for the plant before it was built.

And the Obama administration guaranteed the project $8 billion in federal loans.

Environmental groups plan to challenge the vote in court.

Stephen Smith of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy says, the project hasn't considered lessons learned in Japan's Fukushima disaster.

"It's a big day for Southern Company to pound their chest arrogantly about rushing forward and doing this, but the reality is that if they have to go back after they've already poured concrete and make changes, it's just going to cost a lot more money," Smith says. "This project already is behind schedule and we're likely to see it go over-budget."

Current estimates put the price-tag for the new reactors at $14 billion.