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DOE set to approve construction of US nuclear plant

Plant Vogtle

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Energy Department is poised to approve $6.5 billion in federal loan guarantees for the first nuclear power plant built from scratch in this country in more than three decades.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz was expected to announce final approval of the deal at a speech on Wednesday, a day before he visits the $14 billion Vogtle nuclear plant now under construction in eastern Georgia.

Three government officials familiar with the deal confirmed its details Tuesday. They asked not to be identified because the deal has not been made public.

Atlanta-based Southern Co. is building the plant with several partners about 30 miles southeast of Augusta, Ga. The project is widely considered a major test of whether the industry can build nuclear plants without the endemic delays and cost overruns that plagued earlier rounds of building in the 1970s. Vogtle was originally estimated to cost around $14 billion, but government monitors have warned the final cost is likely to be higher.

The Energy Department tentatively approved an $8.3 billion loan guarantee for the project in 2010 as part of President Barack Obama's pledge to expand nuclear power and other energy sources.

Obama and other proponents say greater use of nuclear power could cut the nation's reliance on fossil fuels and create energy without producing greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

More than two dozen nuclear reactors have been proposed in recent years, but experts now say it is likely that only five or six new reactors will be completed by the end of the decade. The once-expected nuclear power boom has been plagued by a series of problems, from the prolonged economic downturn to a sharp drop in natural gas prices and the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

Owners of at least four nuclear reactors have shuttered plants in recent months or announced plans to do so, including California's troubled San Onofre nuclear plant. Utilities have decided it is cheaper to close plants rather than spend big money fixing them and risk the uncertainty of safety reviews.

Southern Co. officials told Wall Street analysts in late January that they had submitted the paperwork necessary to get the loan guarantees, but company spokesman Tim Leljedal would not discuss Tuesday whether a deal had been reached.

"We're committed to enhancing the customer value of the project through various avenues including the pursuit of loan guarantees," he said.

The company has said federal assistance was not needed to finish the project. The company was able to borrow $4.3 billion privately in 2012. Completion of the project is not expected until at least 2018.

Georgia Public Service Commissioner Stan Wise said state officials have been invited to a signing ceremony Thursday. He had not been briefed on the terms.

A spokesman for the Energy Department declined to comment.

Government officials familiar with the deal said two loan guarantees totaling $6.5 billion will be offered to Georgia Power, a Southern subsidiary, and Oglethorpe Power Co., a partner on the project. A separate agreement guaranteeing $1.8 billion was still being negotiated with a third Vogtle partner, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia.


Associated Press writer Ray Henry in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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darrthom February 19 2014 at 9:28 AM

It's about time! In spite of what the clueless anti -nuclear power crowd believes, nuclear power is the answer to our energy needs. And the environmental extremeists shou love it. No emissions.

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2 replies
dougandjan864 darrthom February 19 2014 at 12:46 PM

So what's to become of those millions of tons of deadly spent fuel rods that is stored on reactor sites?

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1 reply
deltym dougandjan864 February 19 2014 at 2:26 PM

In your mama ass.

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jmjjf darrthom February 19 2014 at 9:18 PM

Something worse than emissions, maybe, were spewed into the Pacific Ocean from the Japanese nuclear plant, after the tsunami. By the time the book, We Almost Lost Detroit, was written, there had already been many nuclear accidents in plants worldwide.

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alfredschrader February 19 2014 at 2:29 PM

The best place to locate a nuke powerplant is at ther Nevada nuke test sites or an area out West void of people. The problem is power losses in the long power lines that are needed to distribute the wattage all over the US.
This could soon change. Until now no one knew what causes resistance in electrical wires but I have discovered it. It is very likely we will soon have a practical way to distribute electrical power over large distances.

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