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Friday February 12th, 2016 5:32PM

McDonald: Nuclear power is good for Georgia

By Mitch Clarke, Editor
Two new nuclear reactors under construction at Georgia Power's Plant Vogtle will be critical to fueling Georgia's future energy needs, a member of the Georgia Public Service Commission said Tuesday.<br /> <br /> Commissioner Lauren W. "Bubba" McDonald, Jr. told the Kiwanis Club of Gainesville that he is a big proponent of nuclear energy.<br /> <br /> "It's going to be the saving grace for Georgia," McDonald said. "It's clean, it's safe and it's cheap."<br /> <br /> Georgia Power and its partners are building two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. They will join two reactors that were built in the 1980s at the power plant in Burke County in southeast Georgia.<br /> <br /> The construction project was originally estimated to cost $12-$13 billion, but McDonald said the final costs likely will be higher.<br /> <br /> But McDonald said the project is the largest single economic development project in Georgia history, creating 5,000 jobs during the peak of construction and 800 permanent jobs once the reactors are online.<br /> <br /> Georgia Power initially said the first new reactor at Vogtle would be operational in the spring of 2016. But construction and other delays have pushed that to late 2017 or early 2018. The second reactor is scheduled for completion at the end of 2018.<br /> <br /> Georgia Power told the PSC on Tuesday that construction is progressing and remains on a revised scheduled and budget. The hearing before the PSC was scheduled to review about $390 million that Georgia Power spent on the project last year.<br /> <br /> When the project was first envisioned, Georgia Power asked for and was granted a rate increase to pay for a portion of the construction. But reports now show construction costs are about $700 million over budget. <br /> <br /> Georgia Power officials say they will wait until the project is completed and operational before deciding to ask the PSC for additional rate hikes to cover costs.<br /> <br /> Construction is 56 percent complete.<br /> <br /> Georgia Power owns a 46 percent stake in the new reactors. The other co-owners include Oglethorpe Power Corp., the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and the city of Dalton. Only Georgia Power is regulated by the Public Service Commission.<br /> <br />
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