U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday $8.33 billion in loan guarantees for the construction of the nation's first nuclear power plant in nearly three decades while calling for a comprehensive energy and climate legislation that promotes clean energy.
The loan guarantees, which will be made available through the U.S. Department of Energy, will help build two nuclear reactors at a plant in Burke, Georgia. Once completed, the plant will supply 1.4 million people in Georgia with electricity, according to the Obama administration.
Nuclear power is considered a clean energy and according to Obama's administration, compared to a coal plant of the similar size, the nuclear units will avoid 16 million tons of carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases blamed for climate change.
To meet our growing energy needs and prevent the worst consequences of climate change, we need to increase our supply of nuclear power and today's announcement helps to move us down that path, said President Obama today at a news conference held at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 26 in Lanham, Md.
But energy leaders and experts recognize that as long as producing carbon pollution carries no cost, traditional plants that use fossil fuels will be more cost-effective than plants that use nuclear fuel, Obama added.
Obama's announcement comes amid a push by his admimistration to pass climate legislation that promotes an increase in use of renewable fuel sources such as wind and solar to generate power.
The law also contains a cap-and-trade system which allows the trade of greenhouse gas emission permits, similar to a trading system now active in the European Union.
However, the climate bill faces opposition from Republicans in Congress who agree on increasing nuclear power but strongly reject a cap-and-trade system.
The two 1,100 megawatt nuclear reactors will be built by Atlanta-based Southern Co. one of the nation's largest generators of electricity. The plants are expected to create 3,500 contruction jobs and 800 permanent jobs once they begin operations.
The new units will be located at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, Ga., where the company already owns and operates two nuclear units. They are expected to begin commercial operation in 2016 and 2017.
We are honored by the administration's confidence in our ability to build the nation's first new nuclear power plant in more than three decades, said Southern Company CEO David Ratcliffe in a statement Tuesday.
Shares of Southern Co. (NYSE:SO) climbed 2.28 percent or 71 cents to $31.88 each by 4:01 p.m. at the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday.