* $8.3 bln loan guarantee would help finance plant's costs
* Two nuclear reactors could be in service in 2016, 2017
* Obama asks Congress to triple nuclear loan guarantee
By Tom Doggett
WASHINGTON, Feb 15 The Obama administration,
advancing nuclear power use to help cut greenhouse gas
emissions, will announce on Tuesday an $8.3 billion loan
guarantee to help Southern Co (SO.N) build two reactors, a
government official told Reuters.
The reactors are in line to be among the first nuclear
generating facilities to win U.S. government approval in three
The official said on Monday that President Barack Obama
would announce the loan guarantee after he tours a jobs
training center in Lanham, Maryland, where he will discuss new
government investments to create energy jobs and develop a low
Energy Secretary Steven Chu will travel with the president
when he makes the announcement, said the official, who was
familiar with the loan guarantee deal for Southern, but did not
want to be identified.
Obama, a Democrat, has tried to reach out to Republicans
who are skeptical about aspects of his proposed energy
proposals by emphasizing the role of nuclear power in the
country's future energy production.
The $8.3 billion loan guarantee would commit the federal
government to paying a portion of the private loans Southern
would take out for the project in case the company defaulted on
A spokesman for Southern said the loan guarantee would
cover up to 70 percent of the company's portion of the
project's costs. He said the company would provide more details
Southern applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in
March 2008 to build two reactors at the company's Vogtle
nuclear power plant in Georgia, which already has two reactors.
The Vogtle plant is about 170 miles (273 km) east of Atlanta.
Southern says it expects to receive license approval for
the new reactors next year.
REACTORS COULD COST $8.8 BILLION
Supporters of nuclear power argue more reactors will be
needed for the United States to tackle global warming
effectively because nuclear is a much cleaner energy source
than coal-fired power plants, which spew greenhouse gases.
Nuclear power is controversial, however, because of its
radioactive waste, which is now stored on site at reactor
locations around the country.
The two reactors, which some experts estimate will cost
$8.8 billion to build, could be in service in 2016 and 2017.
The project would create 3,500 jobs during construction and
800 high-paying jobs when finished.
The government's financial assistance for Southern comes
from $18.5 billion in nuclear loan guarantee authorized by
Congress. The department is expected to announce similar loan
deals for other nuclear power plant projects in the future.
The Obama administration has also asked Congress to triple
funding for the nuclear loan guarantee program to about $54
Nuclear power generates about 20 percent of U.S.
The Vogtle power plant can currently produce 2,300 megawatts
of electricity. The two new reactors would provide an
additional 2,200 megawatts of electricity output. One megawatt
provides power to about 500 homes in Georgia.
Southern's Southern Nuclear Operating Co operates the
Vogtle station for its owners, including Southern's Georgia
Power (45.7 percent), Oglethorpe Power Corp (30 percent),
Municipal Electrical Authority of Georgia (22.7 percent) and
the City of Dalton (1.6 percent).
(Reporting by Tom Doggett, Additional reporting by Jeff Mason
in Washington and Scott Disavino in New York; Editing by Peter