Washington, D.C., February 16, 2010 — According to media reports, the Department of Energy plans to announce conditional loan guarantees to support the construction of new nuclear power plants in the U.S.
The loans could provide financial backing for a pair of new nuclear reactors at Southern Company’s Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Georgia, which currently operates two units and generates 2,400 MW of nuclear power.
The reactors could be completed by 2016 or 2017, according to some reports, and could cost up to $14.5 billion.
The federal loan guarantee program could provide for up to 80 percent of a project’s cost, with the loan recipient paying a percentage as a credit subsidy fee.
The percentage amount of this fee is still being discussed among the federal government, the power generation industry and political advocacy groups.
Only projects approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are eligible for the loan program. In August 2009, Southern Co. won an early site permit to start some construction at Plant Vogtle. The company anticipates a full license in 2011.
Work is already underway for the new reactors at Plant Vogtle’s Unit 3 and 4. Vogtle will be one of the first nuclear facilities to make use of the NRC’s combined operating license program, which is designed to sidestep some of the costly delays seen in the “Ëœ70s and “Ëœ80s.
Southern Co. owns 45 percent of the project. Southern Co.’s partners in the project are Oglethorpe Power and the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia.
The Shaw Group is the project’s primary contractor. Westinghouse Electric is the maker of the two AP1000 nuclear reactors that Plant Vogtle will use.
The expansion of the nuclear loan guarantee program was requested by President Barack Obama, who called for new government investment in the nuclear power sector in his second State of the Union address in January.
“To create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives,” Obama said in the address. “That means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.”
According to reports, the DOE is also planning to form a panel to address the problem of storing nuclear waste.
The department will add $36 billion in funding for its 2011 budget for nuclear plant loan guarantees. There is $18.5 billion already approved for this program in 2011. The nuclear loan guarantee program began in 2005 to foster the further growth of the country’s nuclear fleet.
Nuclear power plants generate about 20 percent of the country’s electricity supply. There are 104 nuclear power plants licensed to operate in the U.S.
In March, 2009, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission received applications to build 26 new nuclear power reactors, with six reactors ordered.