President Obama announced this week that the government will provide $8.33 billion in loan guarantees to support construction of two 1100 MW reactors at a site near Waynesboro, Georgia, where the two Vogtle units already are operating. The reactors will be the Westinghouse AP 1000 model, which is one of the designs developed in the last two decades to serve as a safer, pre-approved template for a new generation of power plants.
The 2005 Energy Policy Act authorized loan guarantees for technology that reduces pollutants or greenhouse gases. Previous grants have supported wind, solar, energy storage, and carbon projects. Obama said the new nuclear units would help "meet our growing energy needs and prevent the worst consequences of climate change." He also stressed immediate employment benefits, making his announcement at a job training center run by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Maryland.
The Georgia plants are likely to be the first new nuclear construction project initiated in the United States in a generation. But does the announcement amount to a "groundbreaking," as initial radio reports suggested? No. The New York Times points out that because some regulatory hurdles remain, construction will not likely begin before the end of next year. The total cost of the project is estimated at $14 billion, but the direct projected costs shouldered by Southern Company and its partners will be lower, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.