The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the combined license for two new AP1000 reactors at Georgia's Vogtle nuclear plant Thursday afternoon -- the first time since 1978 a new nuclear plant has been licensed in the U.S.
Southern Company has made substantial progress since obtaining an early site permit in 2009, and the final COL is critical to the construction schedule. The approval was long anticipated, with the NRC issuing a final safety evaluation report for the project last August. But the final approval was slowed by a review of the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor design, which was delayed as regulators evaluated design ammendments to meet enhanced aircraft impact resistance requirements. The AP1000 was approved in late December.
"Vogtle units 3 and 4 will represent a new era of nuclear safety," Commissioner William D. Magwood said following the COL approval. He also noted the mandatory hearing alone took 7,000 staff hours, and that he and other comissioners felt there was no reason to stop progress on new nuclear plants while the commission is reviewing safety regulations in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan.
Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko cast the lone dissenting vote on the COL approval, saying it should include some binding commitment that changes in federal requirments arising from the NRC's post-Fukushima work would be implimented at the new units before their completion.
Southern is building the new reactors with Oglethorpe Power Corporation (holding 30 percent ownership), the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (22.7 percent) and Dalton Utilities (1.6 percent). The project is expected to cost $13.3 billion, and Southern estimates it will create 5,000 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs. Southern filed its application for the COL in 2008.
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I'm not sure where you got your information on plant workers, but the most comprehensive study that I could find, which surveyed about 400,000 people said that for U.S. nuclear power plant workers there is no excess relative risk of cancer. There has also been numerous studies done on people living around nuclear powerplants that have the found that the annual exposure to radiation from the plants is about a hundreth of a percent of the annual exposure to background radiation. As for the Fukushima disaster, so far there have been zero deaths attributed to radiation exposure. Also the peer reviewed estimates of cancer deaths that I could find range from 0 to 100. Honestly it appears like you are describing Chernobyl as a common event for a nuclear plant. From what I have read Chernobyl never should have been allowed to run because a back up cooling system was never perfected. During its few years of operation it didn't have an effective cooling system and that's what eventually caused the meltdown. As far I can tell the NRC would never let anything like Chernobyl happen and unless evidence is ever shown to the contrary the construction of the AP1000 and the general expansion of nuclear power in the United States is for the best.
where are the instrumentation associated with the safety systems to be located inside the containment
Now that Chicago Bridge and Iron Co. is taking over Shaw Group, you can bet that they will clean house and build these units flawlessly.
As far as the comment about Chernobyl... that was a RBMK-type reactor, which the U.S. has always viewed as inherently unsafe (positive temperature coefficient), and therefore has never built here in the states. Additionally, nuclear safety and training nowadays is incomparable with that from the 70s... amazing what decades of learning and experience can do.