U.S. energy secretary praises completion of Plant Vogtle, says US needs more nuclear reactors

ATLANTA — U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm says more nuclear reactors as she celebrated the completion of reactors 3 and 4 at Plant Vogtle.

Granholm said the United States needs 98 more reactors with the capacity of units 3 and 4 at Plant Vogtle to produce electricity while reducing climate-changing carbon emissions. Each of the two new reactors can power 500,000 homes and businesses without releasing any carbon.

“It is now time for others to follow their lead to reach our goal of getting to net zero by 2050,” Granholm said. “We have to at least triple our current nuclear capacity in this country.”

The federal government says it is easing the risks of nuclear construction, but the $11 billion in cost overruns at Plant Vogtle near Augusta remain sobering for other utilities. Chris Womack is the CEO of Southern Co., the Atlanta-based parent company of Georgia Power. He said he supports Granholm’s call for more nuclear power generation, but he added that his company won’t build more soon.

“I think the federal government should provide a leadership role in facilitating and making that become a reality,” Womack said. “We’ve had a long experience, and we’re going to celebrate what we’ve gotten done here for a good little while.”

Friday’s event capped a week of celebrations, where leaders proclaimed the reactors a success, even though they finished seven years late.

Channel 2′s Fred Blankenship spoke with Gov. Brian Kemp as he toured the facility on Wednesday.

“We are the only state in the country right now that can say we have two new nuclear reactors putting green energy and clean energy into the grid,” Kemp said.

Channel 2 Action News first took you on a tour of the plant last month when Channel 2′s Justin Farmer got exclusive access just days before the plant’s fourth and final reactor went online.

The two newest units at the plant are expected to operate for the next 60 to 80 years.


“What these reactors are going to allow us to do in the future from recruiting businesses high users of electricity but also being able to provide that clean energy,” Kemp said.

Georgia Power CEO Kim Greene echoed that sentiment.

“I have, fortunately, had the opportunity to run into many of my peers and a lot of people all over the country who are, quite frankly, talking about Georgia as being the envy of the country right now,” Greene said.

Electric customers in Georgia already have paid billions for what may be the most expensive power plant ever. The federal government aided Vogtle by guaranteeing the repayment of $12 billion in loans, reducing borrowing costs.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden’s administration held a meeting to promote nuclear power, saying it would create a working group to ease the challenges that dogged Vogtle.

The Biden administration promised that the military would commission reactors, which could help drive down costs for others. It also noted support for smaller reactors, suggesting small reactors could replace coal-fueled electric generating plants that are closing. The administration also pledged to further streamline licensing.

Granholm said that she believed others could learn from Vogtle’s mistakes, like starting construction before plans were completed. She also predicted additional models of the Vogtle reactors, which were the first of their kind built in the United States, could be built at a lower cost.

“So the question is, how do you learn from the new design in the second and the third and the fourth and the fifth plant? If you don’t vary the design, it gets 30% less expensive every time you build it,” Granholm said.

In Georgia, almost every electric customer will pay for Vogtle. Georgia Power owns 45.7% of the reactors. Smaller shares are owned by Oglethorpe Power Corp., which provides electricity to member-owned cooperatives, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and the city of Dalton. Utilities in Jacksonville, Florida, as well as in the Florida Panhandle and parts of Alabama also have contracted to buy Vogtle’s power.

Regulators in December approved an additional 6% rate increase on Georgia Power’s 2.7 million customers to pay for $7.56 billion in remaining costs at Vogtle, with the company absorbing $2.6 billion in costs. That is expected to cost the typical residential customer an additional $8.97 a month in May, on top of the $5.42 increase that took effect when Unit 3 began operating.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.


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