Photo by Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images
Federal regulators are expected Thursday to sign off on a plan to construct a pair of new nuclear reactors in Georgia, CNN reports.
If they do, it would be the first time the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted a license for a new reactor since 1979, when Three Mile Island shook American confidence in nuclear energy.
The new project is planned for Plant Vogtle, a site about 170 miles outside of Atlanta that already has two existing reactors. The consortium of utilities that runs the plant applied for the licenses seven years ago and, if approved, the group says the new reactors could be up and running by 2016. The project would be capable of powering about 1 million homes.
The New York Times explains that the proposed reactors represent the fizzled promise of a "nuclear renaissance" in the U.S. The immense upfront cost of building the reactors -- the Vogtle project will cost about $14 billion -- combined with the current economic climate and the weakened calls for new energy sources have shrunk new nuclear projects mostly to a trickle.
Aside from two new reactors planned for the V.C. Summer plant in South Carolina, no other utilities have projects that could possibly start building within the next few years, despite the $17.5 billion in loan guarantees the Bush administration set aside for new nuclear projects. Vogtle has an $8.3 billion loan guarantee for the new reactors.