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NRC Vote for New Southern Reactors ’Imminent,’ Fertel Says

A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission vote to award Southern Co. the first reactor-construction permit in more than 30 years is “imminent,” the head of a nuclear-energy industry group said.

The commission within days may publicly vote on the permit for Atlanta-based Southern to build and operate two reactors at an existing plant in Georgia, Marvin Fertel, the president of the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute, said today at an event in Washington. Fertel said he expects approval.

Southern and Scana Corp. of Cayce, South Carolina, are seeking the first reactor construction permits in the U.S. since a 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Fertel said he expects four to eight new reactors in the U.S. by 2020, with the number nearer the lower part of the range because of the recession and low natural-gas prices.

The NRC’s five members have already privately voted on Southern’s permit, according to Fertel. They must hold a public vote to make their decision official. Agency action on the Scana reactors “will be a little bit later in the process,” he said.

Deliberations Continue

“The commissioners continue their deliberations,” Scott Burnell, an NRC spokesman, said in an e-mail. When those discussions are complete, they will give notice of a public vote on the agency’s website, he said.

Southern plans to build its reactors at the company’s Vogtle plant, about 26 miles (42 kilometers) southeast of Augusta, Georgia, for a total project cost of about $14 billion. Scana is seeking to place two reactors at its Virgil C. Summer plant near Columbia, South Carolina. The company is assuming 55 percent of the estimated $10.2 billion cost of that project. The companies plan for the first new units at both plants to be in operation by 2016.

The last time the NRC issued a construction permit was in 1978, for the Shearon Harris plant, operated by Progress Energy Inc., southwest of Raleigh, North Carolina.

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