David Goldman/AP

Two more nuclear reactors approved by NRC

Commission has started issuing licenses after a 34-year hiatus.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Friday gave Scana Corp. permission to build two new nuclear reactors in South Carolina, making it the second power company in two months to get a nuclear license approval. Before the Atlanta-based Southern Co. was granted a license on Feb. 9, the NRC had not issued any new reactor licenses since 1978.

The license approval gives the South Carolina-based Scana the go-ahead to begin construction of two new units at its Virgil C. Summer plant near Jenkinsville, S.C. The commission issued the license in a 4-1 vote, with NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko dissenting.

Leaders of the nuclear industry are ecstatic about new reactor construction following a 34-year hiatus in the wake of the 1978 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania.

“This will be one of the largest construction and engineering projects in South Carolina history,” Marvin S. Fertel, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement lauding the Friday approval. “It will create thousands of well-paying jobs during construction and provide careers for several hundred more people over the decades that the new reactors will generate electricity.”

Both the Scana and Southern units will be AP1000 Westinghouse reactors, a new reactor design approved by the NRC late in 2011. The first units for both companies should be in operation by 2016, with Southern's second reactor coming next by 2017 and Scana's by 2019.

Other companies that have applied for construction and operating licenses for new nuclear reactors with the NRC include Duke Energy, Progress Energy, Exelon, NRG Energy, Dominion Resources, NextEra Energy, and Energy Future Holdings.