The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in a in a 4-1 vote, has allowed on Thursday new reactors to be built in the country since 1978.
Southern Company, a utility company in Atlanta, Ga., will move forward constructing two Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors at its Vogtle Electric Generating Plant. The company plans to build next generation of reactors, said to be safer, longer-lasting and with passive cooling systems. Another license is expected to be granted for new reactors at a plant in Fairfield County, S.C.
This has been a thorough, thoughtful and complete process, Thomas Fanning said, according to Reuters. Fanning is the CEO of the Southern Company. Recall that four other commissioners saw the same facts and voted to issue the licenses.
However, the vote did not go without some controversy. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko casted the sole dissenting vote, citing the events that took place Fukushima
I cannot support issuing this license as if Fukushima never happened. said Jaczko, according to Reuters. I believe it requires some type of binding commitment that the Fukushima enhancements that are currently projected and currently planned to be made would be made before the operation of the facility.
Following the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami that rocked Japan and led to the meltdown at the Fukushima Plant last March, other countries halted construction of their new power plants. China, however, pressed forward with theirs.
The United States froze all nuclear power plant construction after the meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979. The 104 nuclear plants, that provide nearly 20 percent of the United States' power, in the country have designs dating back to the 1960s and 1970s, reported Innovation Daily News.
The last plant that got to this stage of the [approval] process did so in 1978, said Harold McFarlane, manager of the nuclear science and technology directorate at Idaho National Laboratory, reported Innovation New Daily. We think it's a very significant step going forward. It is the first of the new generation.
The new passive cooling systems of the AP1000 enable for an automatic cooling if the plant ever loses electricity or if the plant is ever compromised.
The NRC confirmed that after Fukushima, our facilities are operating safely, spokesman for National Regulatory Commission Steven Kerekes said, according to U.S. News and World Report. At the same time, there's some safety enhancements they're undertaking, despite the fact that they're already safe. These enhancements will increase the margin of safety by another order of magnitude.
Consequently, the 104 nuclear plants still operating in the country have designs dating to the 1960s and 1970s. Meanwhile, the first of the third-generation plants were designed in the 1990s and were updated throughout the new millennium.
Nuclear industry officials said that they expect five new reactors to enter service by 2020.