US set to build first new nuclear plants in over 30 years

August 11, 2011

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has informed the Southern Company that it will issue its final report this month, and that construction on two new nuclear reactors can begin in Georgia by the end of the year.  Vogtle reactors 3 and 4 should begin producing commercially by 2016 and 2017 respectively.  They will be the first reactors to come online since the Watts Bar reactor in Tennessee in 1997 (but which broke ground for construction in the 70s).   There is not a single operating commercial reactor in the US that did not break ground before the Three Mile Island incident in 1979.  However, despite the disaster at Fukushima, it is still estimated that there will be as many as 5 new US reactors built over the next decade.   However, those estimates are very preliminary.  Nuclear plants are saddled with extremely high construction costs, and cannot compete with plants built to run on natural gas, which are increasingly appealing do the the expected bonanza of gas supply due to the fracking revolution.  Stay tuned.

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