US approves first new nuclear plant in a generation

February 10, 2012 01:44

ROCKVILLE, Md. - US regulators on Thursday approved plans to build the first new nuclear power plant in more than 30 years, despite objections of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman, who cited safety concerns stemming from Japan's 2011 Fukushima disaster.

The NRC voted 4-1 to allow Atlanta-based Southern Co to build and operate two new nuclear power reactors at its existing Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia. The units will cost Southern and partners about $14 billion and enter service as soon as 2016 and 2017.

The approval was cold comfort for nuclear industry officials who have touted a "renaissance" that has failed to materialize, undercut by high costs and the cheapest natural gas prices in about a decade.

No nuclear power plants have been licensed in the United States since the partial meltdown of the reactor core of the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania in 1979. After the accident, the NRC adopted more stringent safety standards, which caused construction costs for nuclear plants to skyrocket and stopped dozens of planned plants in their tracks.

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