Thursday, February 9, 2012

NRC Approves Southern’s Nuclear-Plant Construction Permit, First Since ’78

NRC affirms earlier decision that "there are no environmental or safety reasons not to approve" the Combined Operating License for the Vogtle units, plans to issue the license tomorrow

By a 4 to 1 vote, the Commissioners of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) today approved the combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) of Southern Nuclear Company, paving the way for two 1,100 megawatt-electric Toshiba-Westinghouse "Advanced Passive" AP1000s to be built at the Vogtle nuclear power plant near Augusta, Georgia. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko cast the sole "no" vote, while Commissioners Kristine Svinicki, George Apostolakis, William Magwood IV, and William Ostendorff voted in favor. Chairman Jaczko had previously cast the sole dissenting votes against such controversial proposals as: the 20 year license extension at the Oyster Creek, NJ GE BWR Mark I, the oldest operating reactor in the U.S. and identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4; and the Private Fuel Storage, LLC high-level radioactive waste "parking lot dump" targeted at the tiny Skull Valley Goshutes Indian Reservation in Utah. Recently, Beyond Nuclear's Linda Gunter pointed out that Chairman Jaczko, although not perfect, shows concern for safety that sets him apart from the other four NRC Commissioners.

Beyond Nuclear responded to the Vogtle Units 3 and 4 NRC approval with a media statement (below), pointing out that a NRC license does not ensure project success. Read more, including updates, at our "New Reactors" section...

Beyond Nuclear - NRC Commissioners vote 4 to 1 to approve new reactors at Vogtle

Beyond Nuclear Press Release re: NRC approval of nukes at Vogtle

News from Beyond Nuclear
For Immediate Release, February 9, 2012

Contact: Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Specialist, (240) 462-3216

Media Statement by Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear
regarding U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval
of two new atomic reactors at Vogtle, Georgia

An NRC license does not guarantee ultimate project success. Atomic reactors have been NRC licensed and then nearly, or even entirely, constructed, and still blocked from operating.

Two reactors at Midland, Michigan were almost completely constructed when watchdogs proved they were sinking into the ground like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. They were then cancelled, at a loss of billions of dollars.

Nuclear power plants in Marble Hill and Bailey, Indiana that were under construction were cancelled when the Citizens Action Coalition proved in court that the nuclear utilities’ ‘Construction Work in Progress’ charges on electricity bills had been illegal, forcing the return of hundreds of millions of dollars to ratepayers.

A nuclear power plant at Shoreham, New York, was entirely constructed, but then prevented from operating because of the impossibility of mass evacuation during an accident. Again, billions of dollars were wasted.

If Vogtle 3 and 4 default on their loan repayments, it'll be 15 times worse than the Solyndra debacle. U.S. taxpayers would be on the hook for $8.3 billion due to the federal nuclear loan guarantees that President Obama awarded to the nuclear utilities proposing Vogtle 3 and 4. The nuclear utilities have no skin in the game, representing a tremendous moral hazard.

And if eventually fired up, radiological risks for residents downwind and downstream of Vogtle nuclear power plant will be added to the financial risks for American taxpayers. As shown at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan, an accident at the Vogtle site could render all four atomic reactors unusable, not to mention the off-site radioactive catastrophe.


Office of Public Affairs
No. 12-013 February 9, 2012

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has concluded its mandatory hearing on Southern Nuclear Operating Company’s (SNC) application for two Combined Licenses (COL) at the Vogtle site in Georgia. In a 4-1 vote, the Commission found the staff’s review adequate to make the necessary regulatory safety and environmental findings, clearing the way for the NRC’s Office of New Reactors to issue the COLs...

Bloomberg: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved Southern Co.’s (SO) plan for the first licenses to build reactors in more than 30 years, with the chairman dissenting because he said there hasn’t been a commitment to implement safety upgrades after Japan’s 2011 disaster.

The split vote mars the start of a new atomic era as Southern builds the first U.S. nuclear reactor from a standardized design that promises to speed construction and reduce risks of runaway costs that plagued nuclear development during the 1970s and 1980s.

“I cannot support these licenses as if Fukushima never happened,” Chairman Gregory Jaczko said after the 4-1 vote today at NRC headquarters in Rockville, Maryland.

Jaczko said he couldn’t support the licenses without a binding agreement that Atlanta-based Southern and its partners would operate the new reactors with safety enhancements meant to prevent the partial meltdowns that occurred at Fukushima.

Scott Burnell, an NRC spokesman, says the agency plans to issue the license tomorrow. Southern can begin work immediately on the nuclear portion of the project...

“The NRC abdicated its duty to protect public health and safety just to make construction faster and cheaper for the nuclear industry,” said Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts and the senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.

“Rather than ushering in the so-called nuclear renaissance, today’s vote demonstrates that the NRC is still stuck in the nuclear safety Dark Ages,” Markey said in an e- mail.

While the NRC has received applications for 28 new reactors since 2007, Southern’s units are among five on track to be built this decade. The NRC in coming weeks may vote on Scana Corp. (SCG)’s application to build two reactors at an existing plant near Columbia, South Carolina. The Tennessee Valley Authority (3015A) plans to complete by 2014 a reactor it stopped building in 1988...

more > NRC Approves Southern’s Nuclear-Plant Construction Permit, First Since ’78 - Bloomberg


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