Southern Eyes First U.S. Nuclear Reactors in 3 Decades
Atlanta-based Southern Co. is seeking approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a development license to construct two new nuclear reactors, the first new reactors in the U.S. in three decades. The proposed $14 billion project must be delivered on time and on budget says Southern CEO Thomas Fanning.
“We’ve got to be successful,” Fanning says. “This is the first, best shot for the nuclear renaissance in America.”
In the early 1980s, nuclear expansion projects across the U.S. slowed to a halt as budgets were overrun, construction delays became the norm, and regulations increased following the Three Mile Island incident in 1979.
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Despite the Fukushima meltdown in Japan far surpassing Three Mile Island in terms of damage and fallout, Southern is steadfast in its pursuit of the Plant Vogtle project outside of Augusta, Georgia.
Southern plans to license the plant by early 2012. However, there is one major hurdle the company needs to overcome. The NRC must approve design changes for the Westinghouse AP1000 reactors that Southern is planning on using to power the Vogtle plant.
A lot of pressure rests on Southern’s shoulders. Analysts predict that if the company fails in its efforts, this may be the end of large-scale nuclear reactors in the U.S. Small modular reactors may still have a chance, or the country may move away from nuclear entirely.
Southern and its partners have already invested $3 billion into the site since 2009. So far, the project is on budget and on schedule to begin providing nuclear power by 2016 or 2017. Georgia taxpayers will contribute $6.1 billion to the project’s costs through rate hikes. The U.S. government has also pledged loan guarantees totaling $8.3 billion.
“We remain confident in the process,” Fanning says. “We fully understand that this is the first nuclear project in a generation. And therefore it will have everyone’s attention.”
Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector
Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre.
At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable.
How optimistic is the outlook for the UK’s turbine bid?
Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.”
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement.
The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government.
“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”
However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future.
“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours
This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly