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President expected to announce Georgia nuclear loan guarantees today

President Barack Obama is expected to announce loan guarantees today for the construction and operation of two new nuclear reactors in Georgia, the first new nuclear power plant to break ground in the United States for nearly three decades. Loan guarantees will apply to work at the Southern Co. plant in Burke, where Georgia Power is planning the new reactors at its Plant Vogtle facility. Southern Co. estimates the project will create 3,000 onsite construction jobs and about 850 permanent positions. The new reactors would be completed by 2017 at an estimated cost of $14 billion. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorized the Department of Energy to issue loan guarantees for certain new projects, including nuclear expansion. But no loan guarantees have been issued for nuclear projects. Obama has included more than $54 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear plants in his fiscal year 2011 budget proposal. The Obama administration is pushing for utilities to build more nuclear power plants as part of a nationwide effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The president mentioned nuclear power and clean coal, along with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, in his State of the Union address. The stakes at Vogtle are considerable for all parties involved. First, there is the matter of cost for Georgia Power’s 2.3 million customers statewide, about half of whom live in metro Atlanta. To fund the project, they will pay 9 percent more on their electric bills. That increase will be phased in over seven years, starting in 2011. It will last the life of the plant, but is expected to gradually decline over that time, the company said. But the questions remain. Is this cost worth the less than 1000 jobs that will hypothetically be created? Where will the nuclear waste go? Can Georgians afford more taxes? Why nuclear? Why now? GO!

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