Permit Is Expected For 2 New Vogtle Reactors; 3000 New Jobs

Three-judge board essentially found the staff review of safety and environmental issues is "sufficient"

 - Edited By Linton Levy -

According to a report by The Augusta Chronicle, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory could issue an early site permit within two weeks for the addition of two new reactors at Plant Vogtle, according to a ruling released by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.

In a 165-page decision issued this week, the three-judge board essentially found the staff review of safety and environmental issues is "sufficient to allow the NRC to issue the early site permit and limited work authorization," said NRC spokesman Roger Hannah.

Southern Nuclear, a subsidiary of Southern Co., filed its permit application Aug. 15, 2006, and has also applied for a Combined Operating License (COL) to build and operate two reactors on the site on the Savannah River, 26 miles away from Augusta.

Mr. Hannah said the combined operating license case is still pending before the panel, with at least one admitted contested issue that will require an additional hearing. Both the permit and the license are huge milestones in the process of adding new reactors.

The permit program is designed to explore and adjudicate most environmental issues associated with the nuclear project. Once the license proceedings move forward, the matters covered in the permit process can't be resurrected, which eases streamline the process.

Beth Thomas, a spokeswoman for Southern Nuclear, said the ruling means the permit could be sent to the company by late August and will help accelerate progress.

The company has provided a notice to proceed to contractor Shaw Group Inc. and to Westinghouse, the firms building the reactor units. The notice allows the companies to mobilize at the location and perform construction work that isn't part of the plant's safety system.

Activities under way at the site include placement of engineered backfill into areas excavated for the new units, construction of retaining walls and installation of a waterproof membrane, she said.

The expansion project would generate about 3,000 construction jobs and could result in the first new reactor going online as early as 2016, with the second unit starting operations in eight years.

According to Judge G. Paul Bollwerk III, the chairman of the licensing board, there is one pending intervenor appeal regarding three contested environmental issues, but the written ruling says that would not affect the board's decision unless the commission decides to step in.

Once issued, the Vogtle early site permit would be only the fourth such permit issued by the NRC.

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