WASHINGTON – The US approved its first new nuclear power reactors in decades on Thursday, despite objections from the country's top regulator that safety issues raised by last year's Fukushima meltdown were not fully addressed.
Commissioners of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted 4-1 to approve the construction of two 1,100 megawatt Westinghouse-Toshiba AP1000 at power generator Southern Co's existing nuclear facility in Vogtle, Georgia.
The dissenter was the NRC chairman, Gregory Jaczko, who argued for the need for "binding commitments" that the builders would implement design fixes to fully address risks exposed by the crisis at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant after the March 11 earthquake-tsunami disaster.
"I cannot support issuing this license as if Fukushima has never happened... In my view that is what we are doing," he said.
But other commissioners said such a commitment was not necessary and that the safety concerns Jaczko had would be addressed.
The approval gave the go-ahead for the US$14 billion project near Waynesboro, Georgia, seven years after Southern Co. first applied for permission.
Construction at the site is well under way, and Southern said the first reactor could be running by 2016 and the second a year later. – AFP