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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Obama Said Set to Give Southern Co. Nuclear-Loan Aid

Business Week
President Barack Obama will announce Feb. 16 that Southern Co. will get a federal loan guarantee to build two nuclear reactors in Georgia, the first support awarded under a five-year-old law, an administration official said.

The official, who asked not to be identified because the guarantee hasn’t been made public, confirmed the plans in an e- mail yesterday. The financial commitment will be used to add two 1,150-megawatt reactors to Southern’s two-unit site south of Augusta, Georgia.

No new nuclear plants have been licensed in the U.S. since the 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania. The Department of Energy has been criticized by lawmakers including Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the top Republican on the Senate’s energy committee, for failing to issue loan guarantees more quickly.

“I am frustrated that DOE has still not issued a loan guarantee for nuclear power,” Murkowski told Energy Secretary Steven Chu at a Feb. 5 hearing. “And I hope that we can expect that first one shortly.”

The department has authority to dole out $18.5 billion in loan guarantees, and the administration put Atlanta-based Southern at the top of a short list that also included Constellation Energy Group Inc., NRG Energy Inc. and Scana Corp.

“We received notice that something more official, more public would be forthcoming within the week,” Valerie Hendrickson, a spokeswoman for Southern, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “We are excited about the support for our project and for nuclear in general.”

Obama proposed in his budget for the coming fiscal year tripling the funds available for nuclear loan guarantees to $54.5 billion. The money could be used to build seven to 10 new reactors, Chu has said.