|Site clearance for the new units at Vogtle (Image: Southern)
There are no environmental reasons why two new reactors should not be built at the existing Vogtle nuclear power plant site in Georgia, according to the US nuclear safety regulators.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has completed its consideration of the environmental impacts of expanding the Vogtle plant with two 1100 MWe Westinghouse AP1000s in addition to two 1250 MWe units that have operated there since the late 1980s. The regulator's approval came in the form of a final supplemental environmental impact statement necessary for a limited work authorization (LWA) and the combined construction and operating licence (COL). It concluded that "there are no environmental impacts that would preclude" the awards.
The NRC work in reaching this point was built on an Early Site Permit awarded to Vogtle in August 2009. This officially noted the site's suitability for new nuclear reactors and therfore allowed planning to begin in earnest. The early site permit documentation was supplemented with a statement from the NRC on environmental impact in September 2010.
Southern Nuclear submitted its application to construct and operate two the new reactors in March 2008 and the company supplemented this in October 2009. The Vogtle application incorporates information from both the Site Safety Analysis Report conducted for its ESP application and from Southern's environmental report. For a COL application referencing an ESP, the NRC is required to prepare a supplement to the ESP Environmental Impact Statement.
Preliminary site work has already started, with start-up of the reactors slated for 2016 and 2017. Actual construction of the new plant cannot begin until Southern receives the COL. In February 2010, Vogtle units 3 and 4 became the first new nuclear power plant construction projects to be offered conditional loan guarantees by the US Department of Energy (DoE).
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News