Southern Co. set to receive billions for new nuclear builds

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - Southern Co. is among a group of four energy companies that will get billions in federal funding to build new nuclear reactors, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.

The paper said Atlanta-based Southern Co., UniStar Nuclear Energy, NRG Energy Inc.

and Scana Corp. will share $18.5 billion in federal financing through the U.S. Department of Energy so that they can begin building in 2011 and plants can begin operations around 2015 or 2016.

However, through a spokesperson, DOE told Atlanta Business Chronicle no decisions have been made on the loan guarantees for the projects.

“We have proceeded to due diligence with four applicants for the nuclear loan guarantees that are furthest along in the NRC application process,” said Stephanie Mueller, spokesperson for DOE. “DOE has not made any final decisions for the awarding of loan guarantees and has not eliminated any applicants. It is our policy not to comment on specific applicants.”

Southern Co.’s Georgia Power unit earlier this year won approval from the Georgia Public Service Commission to get early recovery of costs for a nuclear project at Plant Vogtle near Augusta, Ga. The PSC approved it after the Georgia General Assembly also approved the request. The company estimates early recovery of financing costs for the $14.4 billion project will save ratepayers $300 million and allow Georgia Power to reduce its share of the investment from $6.4 billion to $4.5 billion.

Units 3 and 4 at Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle near Augusta are due to begin producing power in 2016 and 2017. Georgia Power uses a design by Westinghouse Electric Co.

The wave of nuclear plant construction is being driven by the environment and geopolitics. Additional nuclear generating capacity would lessen the role of fossil fuels in the U.S. energy portfolio, reducing both global warming and dependence on foreign oil.

Nuclear power advocates say advances in the new reactor designs make them much safer than in the days of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.


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