Nuclear license for Southern may be delayed until early 2012

Southern Co. may not receive its federal license to build two Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle until early 2012, later than the end-of-2011 goal the company had hoped for to build what could become the country's first new nuclear plant in a generation, according to a new timeline from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Associated Press reported that two steps remain before Southern and its partners Oglethorpe Power Corp., the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and the City of Dalton could start construction. First, NRC members must vote to formally approve the AP1000 reactor slated for use at Plant Vogtle and other sites.

A senior NRC staff member reportedly said in a memo released August 10 that assuming the NRC's commissioners vote to approve the reactor, it could take until January to publish the rules for the AP1000 in the Federal Register. The reactor design would be considered formally approved once those rules have been published for 30 days.

Second, the NRC's commissioners must vote on whether to give Southern Co. permission to start building the new Georgia reactor units. Southern has said that a delay into early next year should not affect the schedule to bring the new reactors online by 2016 and 2017.

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