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First U.S. Loan Guarantees for New Nuclear Plant

A step forward but still not a groundbreaking

1 min read

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.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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