Southern (NYSE:SO) utility Georgia Power has identified a site in in Stewart County, Georgia, which might prove to be a suitable location for a new nuclear power plant at some point in the future.
That’s what Georgia Power informed the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) in a March 14 inquiry from the PSC on what Georgia Power was doing “to preserve the option” of adding new nuclear units to the Georgia Power system.
The filing was a follow-up to Georgia Power’s integrated resource plan (IRP), which the utility filed with the PSC earlier this year. Georgia Power files an updated 20-year IRP with the state every three years.
Georgia Power is already busy building two new reactors near Waynesboro, Vogtle Units 3 and 4 that are expected to come online in 2019 and 2020.
Georgia Power said in the recent filing that it does not expect to build any additional nuclear units prior to 2030.
“To be clear, the Company is not committing to build the next nuclear units,” the Southern subsidiary said. “But to be equally clear, the failure to act now on preliminary investigation activities and license development would be a decision to forego the opportunity to have nuclear generation available as an option when the state of Georgia needs it.”
The company, however, is doing some preliminary work on the option given the long lead times involved with a nuclear power project. For example, the company now anticipates that it will take about seven years to win approval for a combined construction and operation license (COL) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Time would also need to be allotted for an IRP proceeding in addition to other regulatory approvals, the company said in the filing.
With that in mind, the company “has identified a site in Stewart County, Georgia that is suitable for further study and evaluation,” the utility company said.
To preserve the nuclear option, Georgia Power is undertaking activities such as “evaluating the site layout, performing early site studies and investigations, evaluating environmental conditions, conducting transmission studies, and other activities necessary to development of a COL application.”
Site suitability evaluations include subsurface investigations; detailed geologic, hydrologic, and meteorological analyses; and emergency preparedness and emergency response evaluations, the company said.
In addition, Georgia Power would need to evaluate and select a reactor design and cooling technology. The utility said it would keep the PSC updated on its evaluation work at the site.
Stewart County is a rural county in western Georgia. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the site under review is part of 7,000 acres that Southern owns next to the Chattahoochee River in northern Stewart County.
“By 2030, the state of Georgia is expected to add 2.4 million new residents,” said a utility spokesperson. “Everything we do is about ensuring reliable energy for our customers, both now and in the future,” he added.