Thursday, February 09, 2012

On Vogtle: Reaction and News Coverage

vogtle-blog480The importance of the license granted (or virtually so, as the Commission technically authorized issuance of the license, but did not issue the license itself) to Southern Co. to build two reactors on its  Plant Vogtle site in Georgia is quite real – I noticed that the New York Times and Washington Post put on their first pages that it might happen today.

That’s anticipation for you.

Well, it did happen today – well, the NRC authorized it to happen. A little confusing, but as we’ll see, it’s largely treated as the big event.

Here is NEI’s President and CEO Marv Fertel:

This is a historic day. Today’s licensing action sounds a clarion call to the world that the United States recognizes the importance of expanding nuclear energy as a key component of a low-carbon energy future that is central to job creation, diversity of electricity supply and energy security. The Nuclear Energy Institute congratulates Southern Company, the Shaw Group, Westinghouse Electric and other project participants on this exciting achievement.

Read more here.

From Southern Co.’s President and CEO Tom Fanning – he’s on video in the post below this one:

“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 to deliver clean, safe and reliable energy to our customers. 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.”

More here.

From Shaw Group’s Chairman, President and CEO J.M. Bernhard:

“Shaw congratulates Southern on this major milestone for the Vogtle project, the first new U.S. nuclear construction commercial power project in more than 30 years,” said J.M. Bernhard Jr., Shaw’s chairman, president and chief executive officer.

“Shaw is proud to be part of such a historic project. Not only is this milestone another step forward in continuing to provide safe, clean and reliable energy for the future, but the project also will create thousands of jobs and provide numerous long-term benefits for the Georgia community. Shaw anticipates hiring approximately 3,500 employees during construction of the new units at Vogtle, with thousands of more jobs created as a result of construction and operation of the reactors,” said Mr. Bernhard.

More here.

From Westinghouse’s President and CEO Aris Candris:

"Westinghouse congratulates Southern Nuclear on the approval of its combined construction and operating license (COL) for Plant Vogtle by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

"The granting of this COL is yet another important step in constructing the next generation of new nuclear plants in the United States.  The thorough and rigorous COL review, combined with the recent AP1000® design certification help to ensure Southern and its stakeholders of receiving greater levels of safety, increased project certainty and years of reliable electricity generation.  Additionally, these plants will contribute significantly to the local, regional and national economies by creating and sustaining thousands of jobs.”

More here.

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Let’s look at some news coverage.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the project. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko, who has supported the project throughout the process, dissented, saying he was concerned that the reactors would not meet certain safety requirements put in place since Japan's Fukushima Daiichi accident.

"Significant safety enhancements have already been recommended as a result of learning the lessons from Fukushima, and there is still more work ahead of us. Knowing this, I cannot support issuing these licenses as if Fukushima never happened," Jaczko said.

The Augusta Chronicle. Augusta is the largest town near the Vogtle facility – I reckon a fair number of its workers live in Augusta:

Fellow commissioners expressed confidence that safety recommendations made since the Japan crisis will be properly implemented.

“There is no amnesia, individually or collectively,” commissioner Kristine L. Svinicki said of the NRC’s attention to lessons learned from Fukushima.

Newshounds. Always after conflict. The Chronicle gets a detail right that most other papers missed:

The license, which could be issued within 10 days, according to NRC staffers, will lead to the construction of the first AP1000 modular reactors in the U.S., creating a workforce expected to peak at about 3,500 during the next three years, with total job creation estimated at 5,000.

Symbolically, today’s the day, but practically, the license will be prepared by the NRC staff and issued inside a couple of weeks. Southern Co. cannot proceed without it, but now they know it’s coming. Good for writer Rob Pavey for picking that up.

The Chronicle has a page with stories about Vogtle. My favorite one was:

Twin brothers Abner and Allen DeLaigle can remember the flood of workers and money that inundated Burke County when Plant Vogtle first rose from the ground decades ago.

“We had a store, and a restaurant, just down from the front gate,” said Allen DeLaigle, “We also had a camper park with 380 spaces — and we stayed full for 10 years.”

During that era [meaning the 70s], the mammoth project lured 14,000 workers to the remote banks of the Savannah River, where the demand for housing, food and other commodities was so intense that their restaurant bustled seven days a week.

Sounds like a gold rush town. Wonder if they had a dance hall and a Marshal.

I looked at the Waynesboro paper, the True Citizen, (Waynesboro is the town nearest to Vogtle likely to have a paper), but it puts its content behind a pay wall. We may never know how they report it in Waynesboro, except that the headline is: High Expectations.

The Washington Post Story is here and the New York Times story is here. Both relegate it to the business pages. Better to stay local on this one, because this is really big news in that part of Georgia. I come from Georgia myself, so perhaps there’s a personal angle too and a bit of home state pride.

Plant Vogtle clears land.

3 comments:

Paul said...

I too find Chmn Jaczko's comment very strange. Doesn't the NRC have the authority to tell Southern Co. to tie a 10-ft wide pink bow around the outer containment at any time, if the NRC decides that it's a valid safety requirement, no matter what Southern agrees to prior to construction.

How does Chmn Jaczko vote "for" the AP1000 design certification, and "against" the COL?

Brian Mays said...

"How does Chmn Jaczko vote 'for' the AP1000 design certification, and 'against' the COL?"

It all depends on where the political pressure is applied.

He knew that he could get away with voting no on the Vogtle COL. It's a symbolic gesture to demonstrate to certain people that he is at least trying.

Anonymous said...

Brian is probably correct. It bears remembering that under Jaczko the NRC has been politicized more than it ever has been. My guess is he voted down the COL as a gesture to maintain his political patronage (i.e., Harry Reid and Edward Markey). After all, this plant is in Georgia, not Nevada or Massachusetts, so Reid and Markey won't pay any political (or monetary, in the case of Markey) price.