Southern (NYSE: SO) CEO Thomas Fanning said Jan. 25 that he expects the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to issue a license “any day now” for the nation’s first new commercial nuclear power plant in decades.
Southern’s Georgia Power subsidiary is leading a group of utilities developing the Vogtle 3 and 4 nuclear units in Georgia. Fanning said during a quarterly earnings call that roughly 2,000 workers are already involved in site work for the new reactors that will be located alongside the existing Vogtle units 1 and 2.
Ultimately about 5,000 construction workers will be deployed at the Vogtle site during the peak of employment in 2014, Fanning said.
The NRC said Dec. 22 that it had certified Westinghouse’s AP 1000 nuclear reactor design, which will be used for Vogtle units 3 and 4 near Waynesboro, Ga. Georgia Power and its partners hopes to bring unit 3 into commercial operation in 2016 and unit 4 in 2017. Each of the new units will be able to generate roughly 1,100 MW.
Fanning also said that things are progressing well on Mississippi Power’s 580-MW Ratcliffe integrated gasification combined-cycle project now under construction in Kemper County, Miss.
About 1,100 workers are currently on-site at the coal-gasification power plant. More than 2,000 workers will be used during peak construction later this year, Fanning said. The plant, which will be capture carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery, is scheduled for commercial operation in 2014.
The new nuclear plant and IGCC projects are one reason that Southern is expected to invest $18.4bn on capital investments from 2012 through 2014.
Retrofitting coal plants to comply with new U.S. EPA regulations could account for up to $4.4bn of capital expenditures during that period, Southern officials said. Southern foresees adding emission reduction equipment on up to 12,000 MW of major coal plants.
Up to 4,000 MW of coal units are candidates for potential retirement while others could be converted to a different fuel, Southern said.
Atlanta-based Southern 4Q 2011 earnings of $261m, or 30 cents a share, compared with earnings of $153m, or 18 cents a share, in the fourth quarter of 2010. Southern also reported full-year 2011 earnings of $2.20bn, or $2.57 a share, compared with earnings for 2010 of $1.97bn, or $2.37 a share.