Vogtle receives final loan guarantees

25 June 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued the last of three conditional loan guarantees for Vogtle units 3 and 4, meaning that the construction of the first AP1000 nuclear power plant in the USA is now fully financed.

Construction work at Vogtle 3's nuclear island in June 2015 (Image: Georgia Power)

The final $1.8 billion of loan guarantees has been issued to three subsidiaries of the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG). MEAG owns 22.7% of the project, alongside Georgia Power (45.7%), Oglethorpe Power (30%) and Dalton Utilities (1.6%). The plant will be licensed and operated by Southern Nuclear Operating Company. Loan guarantees totalling $6.5 billion were issued to Georgia Power and Oglethorpe Power in 2014.

The DOE offers loan guarantees for projects that avoid, reduce or sequester greenhouse gas emissions and employ "new or significantly improved" technologies. Federal loan guarantees do not fund projects directly but enable projects to secure private finance. The DOE's loan programs office currently supports a portfolio of over $30 billion in loans, loan guarantees and commitments to energy projects including nuclear and renewable energy. A further $12.5 billion of loan guarantees are also available to support innovative nuclear energy projects through the Advanced Nuclear Energy Projects Solicitation, announced in 2014.

On announcing the final Vogtle guarantee, US energy secretary Ernest Moniz said the Vogtle project has put the USA at the forefront of a "new generation" of advanced reactors. "As we move towards a low-carbon future, the Department's loan guarantees will play an important part in expanding the role of nuclear energy as a part of our all-of-the-above energy strategy," he said.

As well as being the first new US nuclear power project to be licensed and begin construction in more than 30 years, the Vogtle units are also the first deployment of Westinghouse's AP1000 reactor technology. According to DOE, the units' output is expected to avoid nearly 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

Construction of Vogtle 3 officially began in March 2013, with unit 4 following in November the same year. The reactors, which are being built by a contractor consortium of Westinghouse and CB&I/Stone and Webster, are scheduled to start operations in 2019 and 2020, respectively. The use of modular construction techniques means that more construction activities can take place at the same time, reducing the time taken to build a plant as well as offering economic and quality control benefits, the consortium says.

The world's first AP1000s, currently under construction at Sanmen and Haiyang in China, are scheduled to be in operation by the end of 2017, while a further two units are also under construction in the USA at the VC Summer site.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News