Trump Hands $3.7b Lifeline to Last US Nuclear Power Project

The project has failed to materialize in the US, following Japan’s Fukushima accident in 2011.The project has failed to materialize in the US, following Japan’s Fukushima accident in 2011.

The administration of US President Donald trump has thrown a lifeline to the last hope for a US nuclear power revival, offering $3.7 billion in additional loan guarantees for Southern Co.’s troubled reactor project in Georgia.

The conditional guarantees announced on Friday by the US Energy Department come at a critical time for Southern. Georgia regulators are weighing whether to allow the company and its partners to continue building two new reactors at Plant Vogtle after costs soared above $25 billion amid construction delays, caused in part by the bankruptcy of contractor Westinghouse Electric Company, Bloomberg reported.

“This is great news,” said Stan Wise, chairman of the Georgia Public Service Commission. “It gives us an important piece for continuing the project and it’s important in lessening the impact on rate payers.”

The project represents the last, best chance for a much-hyped nuclear renaissance that has failed to materialize in the US following Japan’s Fukushima accident in 2011 and amid weak wholesale power prices. Scana Corp. this year canceled its plans to build two new reactors in South Carolina after expenses spiraled above $20 billion. Loan guarantees alone, though, won’t save the Vogtle expansion: Regulators also want to see a promised payment from Westinghouse parent Toshiba Corp. and federal tax credits for new nuclear generation.

Southern’s Georgia Power Co. and its partners constructing the Vogtle plant were already recipients of $8.3 billion in federally-backed loan guarantees, but asked the Trump administration to come to their aid amid ballooning costs and setbacks. The department announced conditional loan guarantees of $1.67 billion to Georgia Power, $1.6 billion to Oglethorpe Power Corp. and $415 million to three subsidiaries of Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia. Separately, the department proposed a rule aimed at helping coal and nuclear plants compete in wholesale power markets.


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