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February 11, 2012 / Todd Larsen

New Nukes! Southern Company given green light on nuclear plant

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) voted four to one to give Southern Company the green light to construct the nation’s first new nuclear power plant in 30 years in Georgia.  The approval came less than one year after the nuclear disaster atFukushima in Japan, and with doubts lingering about the safety of the new reactors Southern Company plans to build.

NRC Chairman, Gregory Jaczko was the sole vote against the reactor.  He voted against approval due to the fact that Southern Company has not agreed to make changes to the plant’s designs that would help protect against the catastrophic failures that occurred in Japan.  In general, Chairman Jaczko is at odds with the other commissioners at the NRC, who have called for his ouster. Chairman Jaczko states, in return, that the other four Commissioners are giving safety short shrift at the NRC.

It is not just Gregory Jaczko who is concerned about Southern Company’s new reactor.  Previously, Dr. John Ma, a long-time researcher at the NRC, stated that the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor being built by Southern Company could “shatter like a glass cup” if hit by a projectile.  Green America, and many other environmental and citizen groups, encouraged the NRC to reconsider its fast-tracked approval of the AP 1000 reactor last year. If Southern Company builds the first such reactor, other utilities in the Southeast plan to follow.

Consumer, investor, and regulatory pressure pushed Southern Company last year to announce that it would be reducing its reliance on coal-fired power from about 60 percent to 40 percent of its portfolio over the next decade.  Now, we need to make sure that the company (and industry as a whole) does not make a misguided bet on nuclear energy as a new source of power.  Take action with Green America to encourage Southern Company to end its race to nuclear power.

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