Construction is set to begin on the USA’s first two new nuclear units in 30 years at Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power’s plant Vogtle, near Waynesboro, Georgia.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) voted on 9 February to approve the issuance of the Combined Construction and Operating Licence (COL) for Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4, the first such licence ever approved for a US nuclear plant. Receipt of the COL signifies that full construction can begin on the two 1100 MW Westinghouse AP1000 units.

‘This is a monumental accomplishment for Southern Company, Georgia Power, our partners and the nuclear industry,’ said Southern Company chairman, president and CEO Thomas A. Fanning. ‘We are committed to bringing these units online … the project is on track, and our targets related to cost and schedule are achievable.’

The company expects to deliver to customers more than $1 billion in benefits from the Department of Energy loan guarantees, production tax credits and recovering financing costs during construction. Georgia Power expects Unit 3 to begin operating in 2016 and Unit 4 in 2017.

Georgia Power president and CEO Paul Bowers commented ‘The new Vogtle units will provide our customers and the communities we serve with clean, affordable, reliable energy. Our communities and our country will benefit from this more than $14 billion investment, representing 4000 to 5000 jobs on site during peak construction, and in the process creating over 25 000 direct and indirect jobs from this project alone.’

The approval of the Vogtle COL was a joint effort with NuStart Energy Development, a partnership of 10 power companies created in 2004 to obtain a COL using the new streamlined licensing process and complete the design engineering for the selected reactor technologies. In 2009, NuStart named Vogtle the reference plant for the Westinghouse AP1000 technology.

Southern Nuclear, a subsidiary of Southern Company, is overseeing construction and will operate the two new units for Georgia Power and co-owners Oglethorpe Power Corporation, the Municipal News Electric Authority of Georgia and Dalton Utilities. Georgia Power owns 45.7 % of the new units, with a certified cost of $6.1 bn.