The US government approved licenses to build two new nuclear reactors Thursday, the first in over 30 years, CNN reported.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the construction of the reactors at the Vogtle nuclear power plant complex, about 170 miles east of Atlanta, CNN reported. The site is already home to two older reactors. The two reactors will cost an estimated $14 billion and Southern Co. will build them at the Vogtle plant site.
However, the approval for the two new reactors didn’t come easily on Thursday. The federal panel remained divided on the matter and many opposed the decision.
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"I cannot support this licensing as if Fukushima never happened,” said the Committee’s chairman, Gregory Jaczko, MSNBC reported.
"There is no amnesia," was the response given by Commissioner Kristine Svinick, who spoke on behalf of the majority, MSNBC reported. She noted that the industry has been directed to adopt the lessons learned from Fukushima.
The Obama administration has expressed its support for nuclear power and has offered the project $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees, the Associated Press reported.
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The last nuclear plant approved for construction was in 1978, a year before the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania partially melted down and raised fears of a radiation release, the AP reported. The incident brought licensing for new reactors to a standstill.
Since Fukushima, the Committee has stepped up safety at the 104 existing reactors in the United States, such as better defenses against earthquakes, floods and fires, MSNBC reported. Plus, the industry has said that improved reactor designs have decreased the size of plants and the number of moving parts, which reduces the risk of disaster.
"The design provides enhanced safety margins through use of simplified, inherent, passive, or other innovative safety and security functions," Jaczko said, MSNBC reported.
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